David Healy believes Northern Ireland's "world class" team spirit is the key
to their new-found respectability.
David Healy hit NI's winner in Wednesday's win over Latvia
The Leeds striker scored the winner in Wednesday's 1-0 victory against Latvia
to keep the team in with a shout of qualifying for the finals of Euro 2008.
Healy said: "The boys love meeting up. We have a good time together. The spirit in our camp is, I would imagine, up there with any squad in the world."
Next up is a trip to take on the minnows of Liechtenstein in March.
Northern Ireland are handily placed in third spot behind leaders Sweden and Denmark, going into the five-month break.
Manager Lawrie Sanchez, however, is urging caution after seeing his side
bounce back following their opening defeat by Iceland.
He said: "Whether we will get to the finals, who knows. We have played four
games, and it is job done.
"We can look at the table for five months and see that after a poor start we
have recovered amazingly well.
They are a credit to themselves, their country and their clubs
Lawrie Sanchez on the NI players
"There is still a long way to go, and there will be ups and downs.
"Everyone thinks they will beat Liechtenstein, but that will not happen."
Sanchez paid tribute to his squad who have fought their way into contention in the group.
"This group of players have shown great resilience, great determination and
"They are a credit to themselves, their country and their clubs."
Sanchez picked out the contributions of James Quinn and Sammy Clingan,
who both play in Coca-Cola League One.
Northampton striker Quinn came off the bench to win his 50th cap, while
Nottingham Forest's Clingan looked at home in a holding role.
Sanchez said: "All credit to Quinny - he has done well for me.
Sammy Clingan has done everything I have asked
"He knows he should have scored more goals but he gives a nuisance value and
an aerial presence.
"That was all too evident when we beat England and Rio Ferdinand found him a
Clingan, 22, played alongside Keith Gillespie, Steven Davis and Damien Johnson
Sanchez said: "Sammy has come in and showed he can play in that role.
"He is assured on the ball and is good technically at free-kicks and
"For a young kid at international level, he has done everything I have asked
"It is a good midfield four - perhaps as good as Northern Ireland have had
for a long time."