Belfast Telegraph

Euro 2016: Michael O'Neill was right to drop me, admits Northern Ireland striker Kyle Lafferty

Axed striker hails O'Neill inspired win and he could be back to face Germany

By Steven Beacom

Northern Ireland striker Kyle Lafferty has spoken about his bitter disappointment at not being involved in Thursday's stunning 2-0 Euro 2016 victory over Ukraine, but admitted that manager Michael O'Neill was proved right in his selection decisions.

Lafferty was the biggest name casualty of the five players dropped for the Ukraine game after Sunday's disappointing 1-0 loss to Poland, though is set to return to play a part against world champions Germany in Tuesday's crucial Group C clash in Paris.

"I'm disappointed for myself but hand on heart, the call the manager made was superb," said Lafferty.

"To change five players from the first game is a massive shout but it's paid off and we got the three points."

The Fermanagh man added: "Michael has put out the 11 men he thought could do a job and we are sitting here with three points so it's worked. I can't complain about that.

"I respect the manager's decision but of course I was disappointed not to play in our biggest game in 30 years.

"It's not about me, it's never been about me. I knew from the start of the campaign that my position wasn't guaranteed and this has 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."

Lafferty arrived at the tournament having scored seven goals in qualifying and was considered one of O'Neill's key figures, yet for the Ukraine game the boss chose Conor Washington to lead the line with Stuart Dallas and Jamie Ward on the flanks.

The QPR striker had a fantastic match as Gareth McAuley and substitute Niall McGinn scored second half goals to clinch a momentous win.

For O'Neill it was a tactical call, stating post-match that Lafferty was still a big player for Northern Ireland in the tournament.

If the Norwich striker doesn't start against Germany, he can expect some game time from the bench in a match that could decide if Northern Ireland stay in the tournament or not.

After the victory over Ukraine, Lafferty congratulated his team-mates on their success in the dressing room. He commented that those who did so well on Thursday deserve to stay in the team to face the World Champions.

"As a fan I am absolutely delighted for every player. Conor (Washington) and I have a great relationship and with the performance he put in, I think he deserves another chance against Germany," said Lafferty.

"The front three that started against Ukraine were absolutely brilliant. I think every knows that Stuarty (Dallas) and I are like Dumb and Dumber. We're probably best pals in the team and the performances he's put in have been great. I'm also delighted for him.

"The second goal was massive for us. If I wanted anyone to pop up with a goal it would have been Niall (McGinn).

"The performance as a team was magnificent. I don't think any of the lads who started deserve to be dropped. I think the performance that they put in… they probably sweated blood out there and they deserve another chance.

"Germany will be facing the team with the best heart and determination in the whole tournament. It's going to be tough and they are World champions for a reason. If we put in a performance like we did against Ukraine, no one is going to beat us.

"We've lost one out of our last 13 and we've six clean sheets out of seven games. I won't be afraid of this game at all and I'll be working my socks off in training to have a chance of playing."

Belfast Telegraph