Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland slump to worst-ever defeat in Luxembourg

By Steven Beacom

The Northern Ireland players were left feeling embarrassed and shame-faced last night after the worst defeat in the nation's history, as they lost 3-2 in a World Cup qualifier to a Luxembourg side filled with part-timers!

Michael O'Neill ripped into his team labelling them 'pathetic' and describing the performance as the worst he had been involved in as a manager, adding that if they turn up to play like that again in the future 'it is a waste of time'.

Goals from Aurelien Joachim, Stefano Bensi and Mathias Janisch gave Luxembourg, ranked 140th in the world and 31 places below Northern Ireland, one of their greatest results ever and sent Northern Ireland, whose goals came from Martin Paterson and Gareth McAuley, to a crushing defeat.

Little Luxembourg – a country that has won more Eurovision song contests than World Cup qualifying games, had bankers, students and a caretaker of a gym in their youthful line up, but outclassed the professional footballers from Northern Ireland for most of the match.

This was their first home World Cup qualifying win since 1972 and the first in 43 games and make no mistake, they deserved it.

O'Neill knew it. He also knew his side had been useless and offered an apology to the 1,200 travelling fans who had spent hard earned cash to get here.

"It was a really, really poor performance. We lacked energy, intensity, intelligence and desire," said a gutted O'Neill, trying desperately to control his temper.

"We got exactly what we deserved. Our management of the game was pathetic.

"That was not acceptable and the players know my feelings on it.

"As a manager and players we owe a big apology to the supporters. There was a lack of leadership throughout and it is not good enough.

"This was as poor as I have ever been involved with as a manager – completely, and not just in this job.

"We can learn from it, there is no alternative but that is the poorest by some distance. None of the good things we have done were in that performance.

"I just feel for people who came to watch it."

He added: "Our preparation was detailed; we knew how Luxembourg would play and knew where the threat would lie.

"But in all honesty that is just a sideshow.

"My players have to be prepared to work for each other. We don't have match winners in our squad, our success is when we do things collectively.

"And when that doesn't happen, we have no right to think we are any better than Luxembourg and Azerbaijan

"I got a scent within the first five minutes of a game, just like I knew we were ready to play Russia and Portugal, this time I knew we were down a gear – and we never got up. If anything we just went down another gear.

"There really is no alternative but to respond in the right way in the final two games.

"If they turn up to play like that again, it is a waste of time. The supporters deserve more, and you would question what is the point if they play like that.

"Nothing worked for us and there is not a single positive we could have taken out of that.

"Good teams know how to win but we never had dominance in the game and were vulnerable from the word go.

"We got what we deserved but what was said in dressing room needs to stay there."

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