Belfast Telegraph

UK Website Of The Year

Northern Ireland boss O'Neill to home in on vital victories in World Cup bid

By Steven Beacom

Published 05/09/2016

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

Michael O'Neill will target TWO home victories before the end of the year to ensure that Northern Ireland are in a strong position to make their World Cup dream come true.

Speaking after watching his side draw 0-0 away to the Czech Republic in the opening World Cup qualifier, manager O'Neill stated that last night's result gave him a base to build on for the challenges ahead.

And next up is a match at Windsor Park on October 8 against San Marino, who are expected to be the whipping boys of Group C.

Also on the way is a Belfast clash with Azerbaijan on November 11 with the daunting task of a trip to World champions Germany sandwiched in between.

O'Neill, content with the outcome in Prague even if his team did not reach the standards set in the successful Euro 2016 qualifying campaign, said: "We're pleased with a point.

"We have a home game against San Marino and a home game against Azerbaijan, we would hope that gives us a platform to take seven points and obviously we will try and take what we can in Germany.

"We've not been beaten by the Czechs and now we've got home matches to look forward to that we need to win."

"I think the 0-0 draw is a better point for us than it is for them.

"With Mr (Karel) Jarolim coming in as their new coach, he would have obviously wanted to start with a win.

"I think this group is going to be tight. We've played Azerbaijan in the past and that won't be an easy game home and away for any team.

"Norway made the play-offs for the Euros, so they'll believe they're capable of finishing in second spot. It's going to be a tight group.

"The great thing is that we got off to a good start in a difficult away game. We've not been beaten and now we've got a home game that we need to win."

The Czechs had chances to win the game, not least Filip Novak who missed a sitter. O'Neill said the make-up of his side, some of whom have rarely featured for their clubs this season, made it a difficult match at times.

"You have to look at our team," O'Neill stressed.

"The two lads playing full-back play their club football in League One. .

"We aren't going to come here to a team of the Czech Republic's calibre and dominate possession of the ball. We have to be very well structured and organised, and show our quality.

"There are two sides to the game: when you don't have the ball and when you do. We're a very good team when we don't have the ball. What we have to improve is when we do have it.

"In the second half we came under a bit of pressure, but we had four players in the starting line-up who had played very little club football this year and that showed."

Belfast Telegraph

Your Comments

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting? customercare@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

Read More

From Belfast Telegraph