MATT O’RILEY realises he may be only 48 hours away from a World Cup dream as he prepares to face Real Madrid in the Bernabeu this evening.
The classy Celtic midfielder hopes to parade his skills at one of the world’s greatest football stadiums which will almost certainly go a long way to convincing Kasper Hjulmand he is worthy of a place in his 26-man squad for the Qatar showpiece.
The Denmark manager will name his player pool for the soccer extravaganza in the Middle East – due to take place between November 20 to December 18 – at the end of the week and London-born O’Riley, whose mother is Danish, is in the running.
THE GAIN IN SPAIN…Matt O’Riley is looking forward to the challenge in the Bernabeu.
The Under-21 international is preparing for the final push in the Spanish capital after news broke yesterday that Hoops team-mates Kyogo Furuhashi and Reo Hatate had been overlooked by Japan although Daizen Maeda received a call-up.
O’Riley said: “Kyogo was still in really good spirits in training and Reo was himself, as well, so that’s a good thing. Of course, we are all happy for Daizen.
“Naturally, I was a bit surprised it was only Daizen because I feel all three have performed at a really high level. I’m sure they will naturally be disappointed, but, again, football is a crazy game and these things happen.
“I’m in a good position to show what I can do, but I am not trying to put too much pressure on myself. I have performed pretty well throughout this season in general consistency-wise, so this is another chance to kind of add to the foundations I have built and, if all goes well, I go.
“I hope, though, I have planted enough seeds to show what I am about at this stage and I’ll try to do the same. I always do. We’ll see what happens.”
THREE CHEERS…Matt O’Riley and Sead Haksabanovic congratulate Giorgos Giakoumakis on his goal in last week’s 1-1 draw with Shakhtar Donetsk.
Warming to the prospect of locking horns with the likes of Luka Modric, who ran the show in his side’s 3-0 win at Parkhead two months ago, the Hoops star, speaking to the Daily Record, continued: “Of course, they have unbelievable players and they are an unbelievable club, but they have all come from the same places as we have.
“They are human beings at the end of the day, they are just very good at football.
“So, I feel if you treat them differently, your mindset changes and maybe nerves or different things might kick in, whereas if you just approach it fearless and taking the game to them, you have every chance of performing well and actually showcasing yourself.
“In my head, I hope they play their strongest possible team. I prefer that because that is the best test for us and we want to prove a point to people we can perform really well at this level and play against these teams and win. That’s the main aim.
“That’s the challenge we face and we’re looking forward to it. Throughout the group, individually and collectively, we have improved. People have imposed themselves on games naturally with experience.
UP AND AT ‘EM…Matt O’Riley rises high to head clear from an Ukrainian opponent.
“It is obviously the biggest stage, so sometimes it can take a game to settle in. Although I do think in that first game we definitely imposed our football on the game.
“It is just a matter of maintaining it for 90 minutes. If we can do that, I think we have got a good chance of winning the game. You learn things as you go.
“In the first game, I thought they were very good at managing the game, especially in the second-half when they had their lead. They just controlled possession.
“We could have been a bit more aggressive. So you learn things like that.”
O’Riley added: “If we want to win, we are going to have to be at our very best.
“We know when we have a chance it is about taking it now and being ruthless.
“It does feel like we are close right now, but also very far away in terms of where we sit in the group.
“So, if we can show a really good performance in this game, it’s putting a statement out there that Celtic do belong at this level.”
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