Conor McLaughlin is relishing the challenge of facing the world’s best but knows he must worry about keeping Fleetwood Town afloat first.
McLaughlin is almost certain to be on the plane when Northern Ireland travel to the European Championships in France next summer - the first Fleetwood player to represent the club on such a huge stage.
But right now the 24-year-old is firmly focused on the festive campaign, which kicks off at Shrewsbury on Boxing Day and continues with home games against Wigan and Bury.
McLaughlin believes Town are close to showing they are a force in League One but admits Steven Pressley’s men are currently too close to the bottom of the division for comfort.
He said: “I don’t think, apart from a few games, we’ve really put in a 90 minute performance.
“We’ve played a lot of games where we’ve dominated for a large proportion but there’s always been part of the game where we’ve got sloppy or conceded a sloppy goal.
“We’re close to being a far better team.
“We know we can’t be complacent.
“We’ve played well in the last few for the majority of the 90 minutes but we need to put in that complete performance.”
Fleetwood picked up a point at Crewe on Saturday to keep them out of the bottom four.
But Pressley’s men missed half a dozen chances to seal the win in a dominant second half display.
McLaughlin knows Town can’t continue to waste opportunities to pull clear of the drop zone.
He said: “Considering the position we’re in we need to start picking up points.
“We should have already but we’ve got to pick ourselves up again and make sure we don’t slip up.
“Two or three games on the spin, if you win you’re a couple of places off the playoffs.
“We were on the opposite end of it last season, looking down and thinking if you lose a few you could drop.
“We just need to put a string of results together and we can look up the table.
“It can change quick but we’ve still got a lot to do.
“We know how well we’ve played in parts and it should give us the confidence we need.”
Survival with Fleetwood is McLaughlin’s first mission but he can be forgiven for dreaming of the summer and the chance to mix with the world’s elite.
He said:”With the draw last week I was pinching myself.
“Germany, who we’ve been drawn against in the World Cup groups as well.
“That’ll be easy.
“There’s Poland who have done really well in that group, it’ll be tough as well.
“There’s Ukraine as well - there’s no easy teams in the group but we know that.
“You go to a major championships and it’s what you expect.”
Not that facing the world champions is worrying the Highbury defender
“You’ve got to relish it,” said McLaughlin.
“Why would you fear it?
“You want those games.
“When you wanted to play football, when you were younger, you wanted to play against the best teams.
“I don’t think anybody should be afraid.
“We’ve not qualified for a major championship for a long time.
“We want to go there, enjoy it but make our mark as well.”
And he’s hoping Northern Ireland’s French adventure will help put Fleetwood on the football map
“It’ll be brilliant for the club,” said McLaughlin.
“They helped me, gave me a chance when I was released from Preston.
“When the names are there on the backs of the programmes, you’ll have the clubs as well.
“It’ll be brilliant to see Fleetwood there at the European Championships.”