‘It’s more direct and defensive’ – Northern Ireland action helping City left-back develop his game
PUBLISHED: 10:21 13 November 2019 | UPDATED: 10:21 13 November 2019
Playing for Northern Ireland has helped Jamal Lewis develop the defensive side of his game, the Norwich City left-back has said ahead of crucial Euro 2020 qualifiers against Holland and Germany.
Michael O'Neill's side - who remains in charge despite having taken over at Stoke City - sit third in Group C thanks to four wins in six games but face a tough task to qualify.
Their final two games are against Germany and Holland, who lead the group, both sitting three points better off than the Irish.
"When I first went into the setup, it was a lot different. It's more direct and more defensive compared to playing with Norwich," said Lewis, who has 11 caps.
"I think international football is very tactical due to the pace of the games. They can be quite slow for the first 20-30 minutes and suddenly the tempo goes up. But in the Premier League, it's just end-to-end action and that's why people love it.
"With Northern Ireland, we always defend pretty compact. People may say we sit in but we are very hard to breakdown and we try and get goals via set-pieces and combination play on the wings.
"It's very different to Norwich but I enjoy adapting to both styles."
That small chance of qualifying for a second consecutive European Championship was teed up by home and away wins over Estonia and Belarus.
However, Lewis had to drop out of the last squad due to a knee problem, missing a 2-0 qualifying loss in Germany and a 3-2 friendly win in the Czech Republic.
"I've really enjoyed this campaign," he continued. "I was annoyed to withdraw from the last squad, but I needed to get my knee sorted with an injection and it needed to settle down.
"The boys battled really well and pushed Holland to the edge in the last game. They made them play out of their skin to get three points.
"Even in the friendly against Czech Republic, who beat England in the fixture before, they performed really well in that game as well."
It's Holland up first, in Belfast on Saturday evening, followed by a trip to Germany on Tuesday (both 7.45pm kick-offs), with O'Neill having agreed to stay on should a play-off place be achieved.
"With Northern Ireland, people know that we have the ability there and sometimes it's just about getting those three points on the board," Lewis added, speaking to City's official website before heading off for international duty.
"That's what we need to do in the next break. It's two big games against Germany and Holland again. We've shown people there's no reason why we can't get some points out of them."