Football: REACH FOR THE FINALS; LIECHTENSTEIN V NORTHERN IRELAND GROUP F QUALIFIER, TONIGHT 7.15PM UEFA EURO 2008 Austria-Switzerland Sanchez: If We Maintain Our Recent High Standards Then We Can Start to Dream
Byline: Orla Bannon reports from Vaduz
LAWRIE Sanchez believes his Northern Ireland team have raised the bar with their recent performances.
Now the players have to reach those standards on a regular basis and if they do that, the manager has told them they can start packing their bags for the Euro 2008 finals.
Of course anything other than a victory in the Rheinpark Stadium in Vaduz tonight and all bets are off.
But a four point haul from the Liechenstein and Sweden qualifiers over the next few days would see the odds on Northern Ireland reaching the finals narrow slightly.
An unlikely tally of six points would incredibly see Northern Ireland top the group for a few months at least, thanks to the impressive start to their campaign against Spain, Denmark and Latvia.
"I believe we are capable of qualifying as our results have shown," stated Sanchez.
"We have performed well in three of our first four games so far (Iceland being the obvious exception) and if we can do that in six or seven of our remaining eight games then we will be right in there. It's about maintaining it."
At an amiable press conference in the team hotel yesterday Sanchez was understandably wary of building his team up too much, conscious that they are still striving for consistency.
"We are as likely to beat Sweden as we are to beat Liechenstein, because we're at that level," he stressed.
"We have a group of players who come together and have gotten some great results but we're at a level where we can be upset on any day, like we were against Iceland.
"England and Poland romped to qualification from our group last time because of their consistency and Sweden are halfway towards doing that in this group.
"But we have certainly raised expectations and now we have to prove we can live with that."
Sanchez knows Northern Ireland are on a hiding to nothing against a team ranked 162 in the world and who have lost their last 10 matches.
Win and it is merely the result everyone expected.
Lose and the criticism will come down on him like an avalanche.
However, the manager was in relaxed mood and allowed himself a wry smile as he said: "I'm sure one or two of you will be writing the obituaries if we fail to win.
"There is nothing in it for us except the three points so it's all about doing a professional job, getting the three points and going home."
Sanchez has executed a few giant-killing acts of his own during his career as a player and manager and is aware that new Liechtenstein coach Peter Zoagg will hope to pull one off tonight in what will be his first competitive game in charge.
The Alpine principality might have made a desperate start to the campaign scoring one and conceding 11 goals in their three games against Spain, Sweden and Denmark but they have proved awkward opponents in the past. …