Conor Washington has warned Bosnia and Herzegovina they will be facing a “wounded animal” when Northern Ireland travel to Sarajevo for Thursday’s Euro 2020 qualifying play-off semi-final.
Ian Baraclough’s side are coming off a 5-1 hiding at home to Norway last month, while they have unhappy memories of facing the Bosnians two years ago when they suffered home and away defeats despite dominating at Windsor Park and hitting the post twice on the road.
But although the results went against them, Washington says the performances gave Northern Ireland confidence.
“If you look at those two games and the performances, especially in the home game we created a lot of chances and should have been two or three up,” he said. “I looked on from the bench and we were brilliant.
“We just need to put in another performance like that and get back to playing the way we know we can.
“These one-off games have always suited us and as a group we are really looking forward to it.
“Last month’s results weren’t great and we are feeling like a wounded animal. We want to put in a good performance that the fans can be proud of.”
Washington has scored twice since joining Charlton this summer, and with Josh Magennis on target for Hull and Kyle Lafferty off the mark with new club Reggina, Northern Ireland’s forwards have found some form at the right time.
“There’s real competition for places,” Washington said. “Laff is back up and running in Italy and me and Josh have played four or five games and got some goals between us.
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“Competition only breeds success and we need that to push each other on in training. Whoever gets tasked with the job has got to put in a performance.”
Victory on Thursday would set up a home final against either the Republic of Ireland or Slovakia next month for a place at the rearranged Euro 2020 finals next year.
Washington is among the senior players in the squad hoping to reach a second major tournament on the back of Euro 2016, with memories of that summer helping fuel the motivation.
“I say to everyone that asks, it is easily the proudest and most enjoyable moment of my career so far,” Washington said.
“To be able to do it again with this group, and for the fans as well, and hopefully they’d be there as well, it would just be incredible to be honest.
“It’s indescribable how good a trip that was, and how enjoyable it was.”
That view was echoed by Niall McGinn, who got himself on the scoresheet in the 2-0 win over Ukraine at the finals.
“Having achieved it before and to do it again in such a short space of time would be great – you obviously don’t want to wait for another 30 years to reach a major tournament,” the Aberdeen forward said.
“As you get older and more experienced you know these chances are at a minimum but there is no better opportunity than Bosnia on Thursday night to set ourselves up nicely.
“There’s no more incentive than a final at Windsor Park and we know on our night at Windsor we are capable of beating most teams and that’s what we want to do.”