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21:00 GMT +3 hours21 December 2014
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O'Neill: N.I. Optimistic Despite Underdog Tag

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Northern Ireland are in an optimistic mood ahead of their World Cup qualifier with Russia in Moscow, coach Michael O'Neill said Thursday.

Northern Ireland are in an optimistic mood ahead of their World Cup qualifier with Russia in Moscow, coach Michael O'Neill said Thursday.

The match is the first competitive game in charge for both O'Neill and his opposite number, new Russia coach Fabio Capello.

"We're looking forward to it with optimism rather than the burden of expectation," O'Neill said of his team's outsider status.

"We've done a lot of background research on Russia and we're comfortable with where we are at this point in time."

English Premier League talent in the Northern Ireland team such as Southampton's Steven Davis and Manchester United's Jonny Evans will be able to cope with the pressure of a big foreign fixture, O'Neill said.

"We have a spine of players who have a lot of experience of playing the game as internationals, at the top level and they will be able to cope with this kind of fixture."

In the second round of games, Northern Ireland face Luxembourg at home on Tuesday, while Russia take on Israel away.