'If we finish any higher than our seeding of fourth then that would be a good achievement' - Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill

The Northern Ireland boss defended his decision to drop record goalscorer David Healy from his squad and was keen to play down expectations ahead of Russia and Luxembourg games
Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill has defended his decision to drop David Healy from his side for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Russia and Luxembourg.

Speaking to reporters at his squad announcement yesterday, O'Neill said that Healy had not played a sufficient amount of football to warrant a place in his squad.

"David (Healy) has had 60 minutes of competitive football this season and that is not quite enough to make this squad," he said.

"I may opt to bring in available players for the Luxembourg game and David should have played two more games for his club by then.

"There are a number of players on standby and it's nice to know that you can still call upon men of the experience of David, Grant (McCann) or Sammy (Clingan) if need be," continued O'Neill.

Northern Ireland face Russia away on September 7 and then host Luxembourg at Windsor Park on September 11 and O'Neill is keen to play down expectations.

He said: "People expect us to beat Luxembourg, but if we take anything from Russia it will be a massive bonus.

"If we finish any higher than our seeding of fourth then that would be a good achievement," he added.

Meanwhile, O'Neill has revealed that he is continuously scouting for eligible players and attempting to persuade them to play for Northern Ireland, but admits that it is 'difficult'.

"It is quite difficult to get people to commit," he said. "Particularly those playing at Premier League standard more than those playing in the lower divisions, but I'm hopeful that two or three will come on board."