EURO 2016: Shane Ferguson ready to take on the world’s best

Northern Ireland's Shane Ferguson isn't taking anything for granted and hopes to be in Michael O'Neill's side for next summer's European Championships.
Northern Ireland's Shane Ferguson isn't taking anything for granted and hopes to be in Michael O'Neill's side for next summer's European Championships.

Northern Ireland international Shane Ferguson is already looking forward to Euro 2016 next summer.

The talented winger knows he and his teammates are up against it when they come up against world stars such as Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Müller, Mesut Özil and Bastian Schweinsteiger to name but a few.

“It’s going to be brilliant and I just can’t wait for it,” he said.

“It’s going to be a great experience and obviously as a player you want to play against the best out there and the group we got, we certainly got that.”

Northern Ireland begin in Nice against Poland on Sunday June 12, before facing Ukraine in Lyon on Thursday June 16 and then finishing Group C against World champions Germany, in Paris on Tuesday June 21.

Manager Michael O’Neill admitted their opening game against Poland is crucial and Ferguson, who seen his old club Institute a few times this season but still hasn’t seen them win, agrees.

“Poland is going to be a very tough game and the first game is obviously important,” he said.

“Because as you saw at the start of our qualifying campaign against Hungary, the way we came back and won, that set us up for the rest of the campaign.

“Obviously if we can get off to a great start that will help us immensely.

Finishing off against the world champions in the Parc des Princes, the left winger concedes the hard work for next summer will be under way and next year’s friendlies will play a big part in their preparation.

Only last month Michael O’Neill changed his system and decided to play three centre-backs - Jonny Evans, Craig Cathart and Gareth McAuley - and the ex-Maiden City Soccer graduate feels those games before the European Championships will be crucial.

“Its great preparation and it’s obviously great for Michael to have a look at a few things,” he added.

“In the last game we played a different formation we went with 3-5-2 and it worked well for us, so it’s good to have those different options.

“You just don’t know what way the group is going to go and we are going to take each game as it comes.

“We’ll be working very hard up until the competition and it’s just great for the country that we have qualified.”