Kyle Lafferty: Players that beat Ukraine deserve to face Germany
Kyle Lafferty accepts he may have to settle for a place on the bench again for Northern Ireland's Euro 2016 meeting with Germany next week.
The 28-year-old striker was surprisingly left out of Michael O'Neill's XI when they defeated Ukraine 2-0 on Thursday in Lyon, even though he had scored seven goals in qualification and was a driving force behind them reaching France.
Lafferty was one of five players to make way from the team defeated by Poland in Nice and he admits he would not blame his manager for sticking with the same line-up when Northern Ireland face the current world champions in Paris on Tuesday.
"I don't think any of the lads who started deserve to be dropped," he said.
"I think the performance that they put in...they probably sweated blood out there and they deserve another chance."
Lafferty had offered a frank assessment after the loss to the Poles, suggesting Northern Ireland "froze" in their first finals game in three decades, and he was among those omitted as O'Neill sought change four days on.
While understandably disappointed at being left out, Lafferty was selfless as he reflected on why O'Neill had opted for Conor Washington as the spearhead in attack instead.
"It's not about me, it's never been about me," the Norwich forward added.
"I knew from the start of the campaign that my position wasn't guaranteed and it's proved it.
"There are 23 players in the squad and none of us think we are guaranteed a place. I might have scored goals and played a massive part in getting us here but that means nothing now.
"We are at the Euros now and if the manager thinks someone should start ahead of me then I will have nothing to say.
"I respect the manager's decision but of course I'm disappointed not to play in our biggest game in 30 years. I still have to work my socks off in training to have a chance of playing.
"Michael has made massive changes - to change five players from the first game is a massive shout but it's paid off.
"As a fan I am absolutely delighted for every player. Conor and I have a great relationship so I'm absolutely delighted for him to start. With the performance he put in, I think he deserves another chance against Germany."
In beating Ukraine, O'Neill's side recorded a maiden success at the Euros and their first at a major tournament in 34 years.
It was historic in more than one way for the Evans family too as brothers Jonny and Corry both started the fixture, a fact which contributed to the elder sibling being brought to tears.
"To be able to repay everyone who has been involved with a victory - and the fact that I've been able to do that with my brother - just makes it incredible," Jonny Evans said.
"I got a bit emotional as well. I hugged him after the game - and I went! He was like, 'What are you crying for'!"