Belfast Telegraph

Biting Back: NI qualification is still very much alive

By Ali Gordon

Winning is a funny thing, isn't it? You can go from zero to hero in the space of just one game. Take Northern Ireland for example.

It was only a year ago that so-called Northern Ireland fans were cursing boss Michael O'Neill's name and practically writing his resignation for him. Fast-forward to this September and he's the greatest thing to ever happen to Northern Ireland.

Just two months later and some of those fair-weather fans have re-appeared - the same ones who professed their love and support for the squad during Northern Ireland's three-game running streak in their opening Euro 2016 qualifying games. Naturally.

We would have bitten both our hands off for nine points from four games in the qualifiers this time last year, let's remember that.

We were riding our luck a bit on Friday night, you have to admit. Romania were the better team and the squad did well to hold their own for the first 70 minutes but the Romanians showed their quality in the end when they blasted two goals past Roy Carroll in a matter of minutes.

O'Neill's men may have lacked some of that sparkle shown against Hungary, Faroe Islands and Greece but they were also lacking a number of key players, such as Steven Davis and Jamie Ward, who have been so instrumental.

It was a valiant effort in Bucharest and the dream of reaching the Euro finals in France next summer is still very much alive.

Realistically who'd have thought after that embarrassing 3-2 defeat to Luxembourg last September that we'd be second in the group with a great chance of staying there?

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