ADAM Thompson is willing Northern Ireland to keep his World Cup dream alive.

They face Switzerland in Belfast tonight in the first leg of their play-off to qualify for next summer's tournament in Russia.

Neither on-loan City defender Thompson nor team-mate Shay McCartan are in the squad this time after being called up for the final group games against Germany and Norway.

But both are hoping to be in contention should they make it through to the finals – and Thompson believes the Irish can pull off a surprise against a Swiss side who won nine out of ten but still missed out.

He said: "Any team we got was going to be tough. We were unseeded and that is how it is.

"But it could have been a lot worse and that is no disrespect to Switzerland. Italy were the one every team in our half of the draw wanted to avoid.

"Switzerland have been a team in form, so it will be tough. But we have beaten the Czech Republic, who are a similar side to the Swiss. We also beat Norway in what was a tough group, so we will be confident.

"We are not a team who make 1,000 passes every game. We have a solid base and then try to nick a goal.

"The first game being at Windsor Park is a boost, as we want to get a good result and push on from there.

"To qualify for a World Cup on the back of the Euros would be massive. It would be huge for such a small country and let's hope we can do it."

Keeper Colin Doyle is away with Republic of Ireland for their play-off against Denmark and will miss City's home clash with Plymouth on Saturday.

But Jake Reeves returns to training this morning after a week off following an injection in his groin.

Thompson and McCartan were among the senior players who missed the opportunity to push their claims in Tuesday night's Checkatrade Trophy loss to Rotherham – a game played in front of Valley Parade's first crowd below four figures for a competitive game.

City still don't know if they will finish top of their group and guarantee a home draw in the second round.

After just 931 bothered to turn up, assistant boss Kenny Black hopes the competition will start to create some interest as it reaches the knock-out stages.

He said: "The fact we had already qualified, even though we wanted to get the victory, would have had an effect. A bigger crowd would have been great but you can understand why there wasn't.

"I remember us going up to Morecambe last year having to avoid a heavy defeat and it was a similar situation.

"But if you look at the crowds right throughout the country in the group stages, I don't think there are thousands and thousands of spectators.

"It will start hotting up now because it gets real. Let's be honest, it's an opportunity to get to Wembley like Coventry experienced last year. The crowds for the semi-final and final last season weren't too bad.

"We've done what we had to and got through. We'd like to have won again on Tuesday but it was disappointing for two or three who are probably struggling for a little bit of confidence right now."