Belfast Telegraph

Now it's win or bust for Northern Ireland: Captain Steve Davis

Belief is the key against Ukraine

By Steven Beacom

Steven Davis has admitted Northern Ireland must play much better to stay in the Euro 2016 finals after a disappointing 1-0 defeat to Poland in Nice yesterday.

The Northern Ireland skipper was honest in his assessment of the performance stating he felt the side lost the belief they had built up during a record breaking 12 match unbeaten run going into the tournament.

Arkadiusz Milik's early second half strike gave Poland a victory they richly deserved and with world champions Germany beating Ukraine 2-0 last night, Thursday's match between Michael O'Neill's men and the Ukrainians in Lyon becomes a must win affair.

Davis, who played in several different positions as the manager changed tactics several times during the Group C clash, stated: "It's strange to say, but we lacked belief in the game.

"Now we have to dust ourselves down and get over this disappointment and look forward and give it our all against Ukraine.

"We know we have to get a result in that match and will be aiming to win it."

Midfielder Davis added: "I am disappointed and frustrated. It is always hard to reflect straight after a game but we know we can play better and have to realise we are here on merit and we deserve to be playing on this stage. Obviously there are positives to take with our work-rate and desire as always and I think we did defended well for the majority of the game but we know we can do a lot better in terms of with the ball."

Asked why the team lacked belief, the Southampton star answered: "It was a tough game and Poland are a very good side. They started the better of the two teams and sometimes when you don't start as fast as you would like it is difficult to get it back.

"We will obviously look at that and see if we can get a little bit more pressure on the opposition early on and cause them some more problems moving forward.

"Michael changed things a few times in the games. In the first half they were getting a lot of space in wide areas and although we were dealing with crosses into the box well we were giving them too much space out wide and the manager decided to change it a little bit.

"The biggest thing for us is to disappoint the fans who were behind us the whole game which was great but we didn't really give them much to cheer about against Poland," said Davis, who was the closest to scoring for Northern Ireland with a chance late in the game.

Striker Kyle Lafferty added: "I think we were overawed. We didn't turn up. That was not the team that has got us here. We knew it would be tough, but I think the whole performance was not a Northern Ireland performance and on Thursday we will go and put it right.

"Michael will talk to us and we will take notice and we will have a more determined performance."

Belfast Telegraph