Evans calls for heroes
Corry Evans believes Northern Ireland must produce a ''heroic'' performance if they are to take anything from the opening match of their World Cup campaign against Russia.
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Friday's trip to the Lokomotiv Stadium represents the beginning of the 2014 qualifiers as well as the first competitive match of manager Michael O'Neill's tenure.
It is also potentially the toughest away day in Group F and Russia, under the stewardship of former England boss Fabio Capello, are heavy favourites.
Hull midfielder Evans is under no illusions about the size of the task facing his side in Moscow but has no intention of backing down from the challenge.
"We'll go into the game as massive underdogs and that is fine by us,'' he said.
"We know it will take a heroic performance and that the Russians are going to have a lot of possession, move the ball quickly and have a huge home crowd behind them. But it's up to us to break down their play and take our chances when they arrive.
"It's very important we get off the mark and I see no reason why we can't come away with something from Moscow.
"There is a greater expectation on the Russians at home; they need to deal with that and we need to add to their pressure then take advantage.''
Capello and O'Neill are both looking to kickstart their reigns with a positive result, with the Italian drawing his only match in charge against the Ivory Coast and his opposite number winless in three friendlies in charge of Northern Ireland.
Evans expects both sets of players to give a hungry performance.
"Russia will be eager to prove a point because by their own high standards they probably disappointed during Euro 2012, and even before that in the last few years,'' said Evans.
"They'll also be keen to impress Fabio Capello, that's what happens when a new boss comes in: players raise their game to the next level.
"We need to do that for Michael too, make sure we stick to our set-up and achieve our goal of a positive result, be it a win or a draw.''
Northern Ireland underperformed in qualification for Euro 2012, finishing fifth, but Evans insists there are still positives to be taken from that period.
He points to an encouraging first half in Belgrade, where Northern Ireland took a 1-0 lead over Serbia only to slip to a 2-1 defeat, as evidence that the team can compete away from home.
"I really think we need to remember our first-half performance against Serbia and try to replicate that against the Russians,'' he said.
"The first 45 minutes in Belgrade was definitely one of our better all-round team performances and it's just a pity we couldn't keep up the momentum in the second half.
"That defeat was very hard to take because we felt we'd done enough to get at least a point. But we must take all the positives from that first 45 minutes. We controlled the game, passed the ball around well, were sound defensively and I'm confident that if we can do that again on Friday we'll trouble Russia.
"We'll not be intimidated or overawed. Why should we be? We're a confident team and we proved that against the Serbs.''
Evans, 22, also has a favourite personal memory from the last campaign to call on. He scored the only goal, his first at international level, in Slovenia and is desperate to repeat the feat.
"I would love to replicate my goal against Slovenia against the Russians,'' he said.
"That was just amazing. To score the winning goal away from home in the first game of qualifying...I'd love to do that again.''
Northern Ireland go into the match without three of their original squad - Paddy McCourt, Shane Ferguson (both groin) and Martin Paterson (hamstring) all ruled out - but bolstered by the arrival of Sammy Clingan as cover.
Ferguson and Paterson will both be assessed at the weekend and could return for Tuesday's qualifier against Luxembourg at Windsor Park.