Corry Evans philosophical about World Cup disappointment as North look towards Euros again
IT was a long summer waiting to get back into action, but Corry Evans insists it wasn’t spent dwelling on ‘what ifs’ and ‘what might have beens’.
Evans and his Northern Ireland team-mates could only watch on as Switzerland - their World Cup play-off conquerors - reached the last 16 in Russia, while the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) was a regular talking point throughout the competition.
You couldn’t have blamed Evans for wishing VAR had been introduced to the international stage a little sooner, as the Swiss only edged past the North last November courtesy of a hotly-disputed penalty awarded against the Blackburn Rovers man.
That controversial Windsor Park spot kick, converted by Ricardo Rodriguez, proved to be the only goal over two legs.
Xherdan Shaqiri’s shot struck Evans on the shoulder, rather than the arm, and the penalty award would surely have been overturned had VAR been in place.
However, 10 months on and with Michael O’Neill’s men preparing for their Uefa Nations League opener against Bosnia-Herzegovina on Saturday, Evans is philosophical.
“I thought it [VAR] was a good thing at the World Cup, it added a bit of drama to the game at times,” said the 28-year-old.
“Looking back to the Switzerland play-off game, it wasn’t used then but had it been, who knows what the result might have been?
“It’s only natural to think that but that has passed and you have to look forward to the next chance to get to a major finals. We’ve all had that experience of the European Championships in 2016 and we want more of that as a team.
“I think we just have to move forward now. Personally, I have and I look forward to the upcoming games and trying to qualify for the European Championships is our next aim.”
And the Nations League offers one possible route to Euro 2020, which will be staged across 12 cities. Having had a taste of such a big tournament two years ago, the North – and Evans – are determined to get there again.
“Everyone saw the effect it had - it brought everyone together.
“Having that experience as a player, it makes you want it even more, to get back on to that stage to experience that sort of high again.”
A busy international lies ahead in the coming months too. After Saturday’s game, the North have a home friendly against Israel next Tuesday before away trips to Austria and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
On November 15 then, they travel to the Aviva Stadium in Dublin to face Martin O’Neill’s Republic of Ireland – a game Evans admits he is already looking forward to.
“I played against them behind closed doors game a couple of years back, and it’ll be a great occasion,” he said.
“I’ve got a few friends throughout football who are in the Republic team - Robbie Brady and I came through at Man United - so it’ll be good to play against them.”
* Corry Evans was speaking at the launch of McDonald’s UK’s new football sponsorship programme which will provide over five million hours of fun football for children across the UK by 2022. For further information visit www.mcdonalds.co.uk/football