Northern Ireland could find themselves in the promised land of the global football scene, as they move closer to a summer excursion to Russia.

Despite falling to a 1-0 defeat against Norway, Michael O'Neill's side are all but confirmed to take part in the play-offs next month, with the reward being a place in the World Cup next year.

A remarkable achievement for any nation, let alone a country the size of Northern Ireland.

BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - NOVEMBER 11: Oliver Norwood of Northern Ireland pictured during the FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier between Northern Ireland and Azerbaijan at Windsor Park on November 11, 2016 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

Two members of the overachieving squad are QPR forward Conor Washington and Fulham's loan star Oliver Norwood, who are part of a new generation in Northern Irish history.

Although both players were born and brought up in England, they qualify for O'Neill's side through family connections, meaning a win-win scenario for both player and country.

International opportunities are hard to come by, and with England boasting such a large pool of talent, it's near impossible for most players to get anywhere near the international set-up, but to be given the chance to compete elsewhere is an opportunity not to be missed for either Washington or Norwood.

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As well as this, the national team benefit as they look to widen the pool of talent available to them, meaning they have greater strength in depth when competing on the world stage.

Both players are a key part of the Northern Ireland squad, and the opportunity to qualify for the World Cup next summer would go down as a career-defining aspiration, and one which would be the envy of thousands of players around the UK.