The World Cup is looming – but Ollie Norwood only has eyes for 2016.

Northern Ireland, who have just completed a two-match tour of South America with the Town midfielder involved in both games, haven’t made a major tournament in 28 years.

They finished a disappointing fifth in their qualifying group for this summer’s big jamboree in Brazil.

Russia were beaten 1-0 at Windsor Park, and there was a memorable 1-1 draw with Portugal, when Norwood claimed a top memento by swapping shirts with Cristiano Ronaldo.

Cristiano Ronaldo's shirt given to Oliver Norwood
Cristiano Ronaldo's shirt given to Oliver Norwood
 

But the Irish failed to get the results required against the lesser lights such as Azerbaijan, Israel and Luxembourg.

It’s a record Norwood is keen to help his country improve on.

To make Euro 2016 in France, Michael O’Neill’s side must get through a qualifying group which also includes Greece, Hungary, the Faroe Islands, Finland and Romania.

And despite losing 1-0 in Uruguay and 2-0 in Chile, Norwood says the squad can take real inspiration from their games against the two World Cup contenders.

“I thought we produced two very encouraging performances,” said the 23-year-old former Manchester United man, who now has 17 caps.

“We were beaten by late goals in both cases, and by two top-class teams who are about to play in the World Cup finals.

“We contained both of them pretty well and looked pretty dangerous ourselves at times.

“Looking to 2016 qualifying, it shows we needn’t fear any opponent.

“But in our World Cup campaign, we failed to get the results we needed against the so-called smaller nations.

“That is something we have to put right, and it’s crucial we don’t take anyone lightly.”

Northern Ireland, whose last finals were the Mexico World Cup in 1986, kick-off their Euro campaign in Hungary on September 7.

Their first home qualifier is against the Faroes in Belfast on October 11.

Windsor Park, named after the South Belfast suburb where it is situated, is currently being renovated.

The home of Linfield, it was opened in 1905.

The stadium took shape in the 1930s, under the guidance of the celebrated football ground architect Archibald Leitch, who also worked on Town’s original Leeds Road home.

After the £31m project, the new-look stadium will seat 20,000.

Norwood will now have a break until July 1, when Town return for pre-season training.

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