O'Neill makes no apologies as Northern Ireland advances

AFP

Northern Ireland's qualification to the second round of UEFA EURO 2016 was confirmed on Wednesday (AEST) and manager Michael O'Neill made no apologies for how it got there.

O'Neill's men finished third in Group C after a 1-0 defeat to world champion Germany, Mario Gomez netting the winner in the first half in Paris.

Turkey's subsequent 2-0 success over Czech Republic in Group D meant Northern Ireland was assured of a spot in the last 16 as one of the four best third-placed sides.

Germany was utterly dominant at the Parc des Princes, but O'Neill had no complaints about his team's display, pointing to the gulf in class between the two nations. 

"First of all, if the other team have the ball in football, you have to defend. You don't set a team up intentionally to go and defend, but you have to be realistic," O'Neill said. 

"It's not my job to set a team up for Joachim Low's team to come and beat us 7-0. It's not much fun for my players so I won't do that.

"The nature of the competition is such that small teams deserve the opportunity, we earned our right to be here. We earned a right to be in the round of 16.

"If people are upset at how we play, the nature of how we played, then I don't really care to be honest. We're a very small nation with a very small group of players."

Northern Ireland must wait to discover whether it will face Wales in Paris or host France in Lyon in the next round. 

On pitting its wits against Germany, O'Neill said: "I think the players will take an awful lot from it. 

"Experience of playing this level opposition can only help us. If the opportunity is given to us to play France in Lyon it will be amazing game to be involved in. 

"We hope this experience will help us."


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