Michael O'Neill: NI boss says players did all he asked in win over Belarus

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'We told them to go and win the game' - O'Neill

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill said his players answered his call "not to accept nil-nil" after they grabbed a vital late win over Belarus.

Paddy McNair's 86th-minute strike - his first international goal - maintained NI's 100% record at the start of their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign.

The victory in Borisov made it four wins out of four for O'Neill's men and they remain top of Group C.

"There's so much in this squad to be positive about," said O'Neill.

"For them to be here on 11 June - over a month after the end of their season - and to have given us as much as they have is fantastic.

"We were asking so much of them - they were playing at almost midnight in challenging conditions that were very humid. They had a lot to deal with and they dealt with everything.

"I felt we had to take the initiative to go and win the game and that we did that in the second half when we created a lot more chances.

"I said to the players at half-time not to accept a nil-nil draw and they didn't. These are the double headers that we might have dropped points in previously, but we haven't done that."

Paddy McNair
McNair's goal was his first in 29 appearances for Northern Ireland

O'Neill spoke before the game about the contribution the young players in his squad are making and he was full of praise for them again - reserving particular praise for goalscorer McNair.

"I'm delighted for Paddy as it was a fantastic goal. He has been a big player for us in all of our last four games and he showed that again," O'Neill continued.

"What we are seeing with these young players is that they are coming in and playing in big games and making major contributions.

"I thought Lewis, Jones, McNair and the young keeper Bailey were great, while the two centre-backs and Davis were fantastic as always."

O'Neill also pointed out that former skipper Aaron Hughes took time in the dressing room after the match to remind the squad how good he believes they are.

"Aaron said a nice few words in there, saying that this is the best squad that he has been involved in, which is testament to him and to the players," O'Neill added.

Jamal Lewis
Jamal Lewis will be playing in the Premier League with newly-promoted Norwich City next season

Northern Ireland now face double headers against Germany, who are three points behind them in second with a game in hand, and the Netherlands, who are nine points behind the leaders having played two games less.

O'Neill is fully aware of how difficult those games will be, but insisted his side are capable of getting results against the European heavyweights.

"The next test for the players will be when they have to play these big nations, but we'll be fine for the big games _ I've no concerns about that," said O'Neill.

"We have to believe that we can get results, especially in Belfast, but we have also proved in the past that we will not be shown up away from home.

"We have great athleticism in this team and a strength in depth which will be vitally important when we come to play Germany and the Netherlands."

Scores, Results & Fixtures

Tuesday 11th June 2019

As It Stood

A

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1England220010196
2Czech Rep320156-16
3Kosovo31205415
4Montenegro4022310-72
5Bulgaria402257-22

B

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Ukraine431081710
2Luxembourg411245-14
3Serbia311157-24
4Portugal20201102
5Lithuania301237-41

C

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Northern Ireland440072512
2Germany3300132119
3Netherlands21016333
4Belarus400419-80
5Estonia3003112-110

D

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1R. of Ireland431051410
2Denmark31209545
3Switzerland21105324
4Georgia410348-43
5Gibraltar300306-60

E

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Hungary43016429
2Slovakia32017256
3Croatia32015416
4Wales310223-13
5Azerbaijan3003310-70

F

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Spain4400112912
2Sweden42118717
3Romania421111567
4Norway41218715
5Malta4103210-83
6Faroe Islands4004312-90

G

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Poland440080812
2Israel42118717
3Austria42027616
4Slovenia41217345
5North Macedonia411257-24
6Latvia4004113-120

H

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1France430112399
2Turkey43019279
3Iceland43015509
4Albania42025326
5Moldova4103210-83
6Andorra4004010-100

I

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Belgium44001111012
2Russia4301153129
3Kazakhstan42027706
4Scotland420247-36
5Cyprus41036513
6San Marino4004020-200

J

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Italy44001311212
2Finland43016249
3Armenia42027616
4Greece411268-24
5Bos-Herze411257-24
6Liechtenstein4004013-130
View full European Championship Qualifying tables

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