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Kyle Lafferty guarantees improved Northern Ireland display

Published 14/06/2016

Kyle Lafferty has issued a rallying cry to his Northern Ireland team-mates
Kyle Lafferty has issued a rallying cry to his Northern Ireland team-mates

Kyle Lafferty has guaranteed an improved Northern Ireland display when they attempt to revive their Euro 2016 campaign against Ukraine on Thursday.

A flat European Championship finals debut versus Poland in Nice at the weekend has left Michael O'Neill's side facing elimination from the tournament in France if they cannot get a positive result in Lyon.

With reigning world champions Germany lying in wait next week, Northern Ireland's last-16 hopes have been pinned on beating the Ukrainians, though there will have to be a marked improvement from the 1-0 loss to the Poles when they failed to register a single shot on target.

However, the typically-forthright Lafferty is adamant O'Neill's team will be better in their second group game.

"For Michael, for his coaching staff, for all the people who've paid good money to come out here, we let them down and we'll put it right on Thursday," he insisted.

"A win could take us out of this group. We still have belief. We've got two games to put it right and I'm sure we'll give a better performance than we did against Poland.

"We'll look into it, get our heads sorted, get our tactics right and I know we'll put up a far better performance than this.

"Not one player will let the fans down. Even if we don't get the result we want on Thursday, the fight and determination that got us here will be there."

Northern Ireland arrived in France on the back of a record-breaking dozen match unbeaten run and having become the first team drawn from pot five to top their qualifying group.

Yet Poland's dominance over them left Lafferty delivering a damning assessment of the country's first finals fixture since the 1986 World Cup.

"We were a shadow of the team that got us here," he declared.

"It's okay talking about nerves but the fight and the determination were not there either. We just got hit by a very good Poland side and we didn't know what to do.

"Whenever we've faced teams like that before we could take control of it, take the game by the scruff of the neck and create chances but we didn't do that against Poland, we pretty much froze on the spot."

Based on Ukraine's performance against Germany in their opening fixture, things will not get much easier.

Although they were beaten 2-0, they went toe-to-toe with the World Cup holders for much of the night and possess two of the continent's most dangerous playmakers in Yevhen Konoplyanka and Andriy Yarmolenko.

Asked if a repeat of the Poland showing would seal their exit, Lafferty replied: "Yes, I think so.

"We can't expect to produce a performance like we did and get anything from the game.

"We're not in the qualifiers any more where you might come up against some of the minnows, we're playing against the best 24 teams in Europe and if you don't turn up you're getting punished."

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