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Astute Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill has moulded us into a difficult team to defeat, maintains Stuart Dallas

By Paul Ferguson

Published 06/09/2016

Still hungry: Stuart Dallas wants more glory nights
Still hungry: Stuart Dallas wants more glory nights

Winger Stuart Dallas says manager Michael O'Neill has instilled a renewed belief and confidence in the squad that makes him feel that Northern Ireland will be very difficult to beat in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers.

The Leeds United ace admitted that before the game in Prague on Sunday night he couldn't see the Czech Republic defeating Northern Ireland.

He points to the way O'Neill has his team set up to combat attacking threats, his attention to detail out on the training pitch in Austria, Michael McGovern's command of his 18-yard box and the outstanding ability of West Brom's Premier League defenders Jonny Evans and Gareth McAuley.

The Czechs were the dominant team in terms of possession but apart from two chances from six yards out which they should have slotted home, Northern Ireland defended admirably.

Northern Ireland can and will play much better in this qualifying series with Dallas admitting the boys dug deep.

The former Crusaders ace said: "This result and performance really shows the strength of character in this squad. I was saying to Kyle (Lafferty) before the game that I couldn't really see us losing.

"The way we are set up (4-1-2-3), it's really hard for teams to break us down.

"I was confident going into the game and it's no surprise they saw most of the ball. They had a point to prove to their new manager (Karel Jarolim) and had a lot of new players in their side.

"Any chances they got were really down to our own mistakes rather than them carving us open. We knew we could get chances on the counter attack, that's what we worked on in training during the week in Austria because that's what we felt they were weak on.

"We had a few breakaways in the first half. Overall, the final ball just let us down."

After the incredible journey to the Euro 2016 finals and playing so well against Ukraine and Wales in France, Northern Ireland are expected to make a serious impression in Group C which also contains World champions Germany, Norway, Azerbaijan and San Marino.

However, it wasn't so long ago that both Norway and Azerbaijan were beating Northern Ireland so it is by no means a shoot-out between the Germans, Czechs and O'Neill's boys for the top two places in the group.

Dallas, who won his 18th international cap on Sunday, insists Northern Ireland can cope with any pressure placed on their shoulders by the fans.

Northern Ireland fans at the Generali Arena in Prague. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
Northern Ireland fans at the Generali Arena in Prague. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 04/09/2016 Northern Ireland v Czech Republic World Cup Qualifier Northern Ireland fans during this evening's game at the Generali Arena in Prague. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 04/09/2016 Northern Ireland v Czech Republic World Cup Qualifier Northern Ireland fans during this evening's game at the Generali Arena in Prague. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 04/09/2016 Northern Ireland v Czech Republic World Cup Qualifier Northern Ireland' Manager Michael O'Neill during this evening's game at the Generali Arena in Prague. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 04th September 2016 - Photo by William Cherry Northern Ireland fans during Sundays World Cup 2018 Qualifier against the Czech Republic at the Generali Arena, Prague.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 04th September 2016 - Photo by William Cherry Northern Ireland fans during Sundays World Cup 2018 Qualifier against the Czech Republic at the Generali Arena, Prague.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 04th September 2016 - Photo by William Cherry Northern Ireland fan during Sundays World Cup 2018 Qualifier against the Czech Republic at the Generali Arena, Prague.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 04th September 2016 - Photo by William Cherry Czech Republic's Pavel Kaderabek with Northern Ireland's Jonny Evans during Sundays World Cup 2018 Qualifier at the Generali Arena, Prague.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 04th September 2016 - Photo by William Cherry Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill during Sundays World Cup 2018 Qualifier against the Czech Republic at the Generali Arena, Prague.
PACEMAKER BELFAST 04/09/2016 Northern Ireland v Czech Republic World Cup Qualifier Northern Ireland fans during this evening's game at the Generali Arena in Prague. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 04/09/2016 Northern Ireland v Czech Republic World Cup Qualifier Northern Ireland fans during this evening's game at the Generali Arena in Prague. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 04th September 2016 - Photo by William Cherry Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill during Sundays World Cup 2018 Qualifier against the Czech Republic at the Generali Arena, Prague.
PACEMAKER BELFAST 04/09/2016 Northern Ireland v Czech Republic World Cup Qualifier Northern Ireland Manager Michael O'Neill during this evening's game at the Generali Arena in Prague. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 04th September 2016 - Photo by William Cherry Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill during Sundays World Cup 2018 Qualifier against the Czech Republic at the Generali Arena, Prague.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 04th September 2016 - Photo by William Cherry Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill during Sundays World Cup 2018 Qualifier against the Czech Republic at the Generali Arena, Prague.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 04th September 2016 - Photo by William Cherry Czech Republic's Tomas Vaclik with Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty during Sundays World Cup 2018 Qualifier at the Generali Arena, Prague.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 04th September 2016 - Photo by William Cherry Northern Ireland players after drawing with the Czech Republic in Sundays World Cup 2018 Qualifier at the Generali Arena, Prague.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 04th September 2016 - Photo by William Cherry Northern Ireland's Gareth McAuley after drawing with the Czech Republic in Sundays World Cup 2018 Qualifier at the Generali Arena, Prague.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 04th September 2016 - Photo by William Cherry Northern Ireland's Steven Davis, Jonny Evans and Conor McLaughlin after drawing with the Czech Republic in Sundays World Cup 2018 Qualifier at the Generali Arena, Prague.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 04th September 2016 - Photo by William Cherry Northern Ireland's Jonny Evans after drawing with the Czech Republic in Sundays World Cup 2018 Qualifier at the Generali Arena, Prague.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 04th September 2016 - Photo by William Cherry Northern Ireland's Stuart Dallas after drawing with the Czech Republic in Sundays World Cup 2018 Qualifier at the Generali Arena, Prague.
@Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 4th September 2016 Mandatory Credit Brian Little/-Presseye Northern Ireland Gareth McAuley header against Czech Republic during Sunday's FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 Qualifier at Generali Arena, Prague Picture by Brian Little/PressEye
@Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 4th September 2016 Mandatory Credit Brian Little/-Presseye Northern Ireland Stuart Dallas and Czech Republic Vladimir Darida during Sunday's FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 Qualifier at Generali Arena, Prague Picture by Brian Little/PressEye
@Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 4th September 2016 Mandatory Credit Brian Little/-Presseye Northern Ireland Jamie Ward and Czech Republic Vladimir Darida during Sunday's FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 Qualifier at Generali Arena, Prague Picture by Brian Little/PressEye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 04th September 2016 - Photo by William Cherry Northern Ireland fans after drawing with the Czech Republic in Sundays World Cup 2018 Qualifier at the Generali Arena, Prague.
@Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 4th September 2016 Mandatory Credit Brian Little/-Presseye Northern Ireland Gareth McAuley and Czech Republic Filip Novak during Sunday's FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 Qualifier at Generali Arena, Prague Picture by Brian Little/PressEye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 04th September 2016 - Photo by William Cherry Northern Ireland fans after drawing with the Czech Republic in Sundays World Cup 2018 Qualifier at the Generali Arena, Prague.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 04th September 2016 - Photo by William Cherry Northern Ireland fans after drawing with the Czech Republic in Sundays World Cup 2018 Qualifier at the Generali Arena, Prague.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 04th September 2016 - Photo by William Cherry Northern Ireland fans after drawing with the Czech Republic in Sundays World Cup 2018 Qualifier at the Generali Arena, Prague.
Northern Ireland fans after the draw with the Czech Republic in Sunday's World Cup 2018 Qualifier at the Generali Arena, Prague. William Cherry Press Eye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 04th September 2016 - Photo by William Cherry Northern Ireland fans after drawing with the Czech Republic in Sundays World Cup 2018 Qualifier at the Generali Arena, Prague.
@Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 4th September 2016 Mandatory Credit Brian Little/-Presseye Northern Ireland Kyle Lafferty and Czech Republic Tomas Vaclik during Sunday's FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 Qualifier at Generali Arena, Prague Picture by Brian Little/PressEye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 04th September 2016 - Photo by William Cherry Northern Ireland fans after drawing with the Czech Republic in Sundays World Cup 2018 Qualifier at the Generali Arena, Prague.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 04th September 2016 - Photo by William Cherry Northern Ireland fans after drawing with the Czech Republic in Sundays World Cup 2018 Qualifier at the Generali Arena, Prague.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 04th September 2016 - Photo by William Cherry Northern Ireland's Stuart Dallas after drawing with the Czech Republic in Sundays World Cup 2018 Qualifier at the Generali Arena, Prague.
@Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 4th September 2016 Mandatory Credit Brian Little/-Presseye Northern Ireland Josh Magennis and Czech Republic Pavel Kaderabek during Sunday's FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 Qualifier at Generali Arena, Prague Picture by Brian Little/PressEye
@Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 4th September 2016 Mandatory Credit Brian Little/-Presseye Northern Ireland Steven Davis and Czech Republic Filip Novak during Sunday's FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 Qualifier at Generali Arena, Prague Picture by Brian Little/PressEye
@Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 4th September 2016 Mandatory Credit Brian Little/-Presseye Northern Ireland team against Czech Republic during Sunday's FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 Qualifier at Generali Arena, Prague Picture by Brian Little/PressEye

"Expectation comes from success and after what we achieved in reaching the Euros and beating Ukraine, fans expect us to beat teams like the Czech Republic," said 25 year-old Dallas.

"We are not resting on what we achieved at the Euros - we've had that taste for success, we are hungry, we want that to continue but this group is going to be tough. However, we have a hard-earned point. Now we have something to build on."

Belfast Telegraph

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