EURO 2016: It’s now or never time for Northern Ireland says Jonny Evans

Northern Ireland's Oliver Norwood and Jonny Evans battle for the ball with  Poland's Robert Lewandowski
Northern Ireland's Oliver Norwood and Jonny Evans battle for the ball with Poland's Robert Lewandowski

Jonny Evans believes Northern Ireland are already entering now-or-never territory at Euro 2016 when they meet Ukraine in Lyon on Thursday.

Both Group C teams lost their opening fixture on Sunday to leave them trailing Poland and Germany by three points and, with Michael O’Neill’s men facing the world champions in Paris in their final fixture, the clash with the Ukrainians has taken on extra significance.

“It would have been nice to take something from the (Poland) game but we know we can’t lose (against Ukraine),” West Brom defender Evans said.

“Especially with going to Paris against Germany in the last game, they are going to dominate the game better than anyone.

“So it might be make or break for us against Ukraine on Thursday night and hopefully it makes for a good game.”

O’Neill had always targeted the first two contests in France as defining for their prospects of reaching the last 16.

But, having left the Polish game empty-handed, failing to register a shot on target over the 90 minutes in the process, the onus is now on Northern Ireland to be more bold at the Stade de Lyon.

Evans also wants his colleagues to take heart from a 12-game unbeaten run that preceded the Poland result and a qualifying campaign that saw them become the first team drawn from pot five to top a group.

“We looked back at games in the past, how we got here, and we tried to emulate that,” the 28-year-old added.

“The most important thing was to try and take something from the game and it was disappointing that we didn’t.

“It’s put us in a position now that we have to maybe go for it.

“You might see a different game on Thursday, you might not.

“I’m sure we’ll analyse the game, see where we can be better and see what we can improve on.”

Defying the odds has been the hallmark of this team, who are the first from their country to reach a European Championships and the first in three decades to feature in a major tournament.

And Evans has not lost hope that there are more chapters to come in their tale as they bid to advance to the knock-out stages.

“There were times in the qualifying campaign when things looked to be slipping away from us and we managed to produce something,” he acknowledged.

“I still think we have a lot of belief that we can produce something.

“I think you’ll definitely see an improved performance on Thursday night.”