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How we've overhauled Northern Ireland's international mentality, explains Michael O'Neill

 

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Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill before Wednesday night's International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill before Wednesday night's International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill before Wednesday night's International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Manager Michael O'Neill admits his men have changed Northern Ireland's mentality and that defeat is no longer acceptable within his international group.

O'Neill was speaking to the Belfast Telegraph after Northern Ireland's commendable 0-0 draw with World Cup finalists Panama at the Estadio Rammel Fernandez last night.

Northern Ireland, he insists, would usually turn up at these end of season friendlies and defeat didn't seem to concern them.

But now, O'Neill says times have changed and having developed a winning formula, his players hate to lose – even end of season friendlies with a makeshift squad.

O'Neill, due to around 10 absentees, was forced to select a makeshift team which included Jonny Evans in midfield alongside brother Corry and Paddy McNair while Aaron Hughes, Gareth McAuley and Craig Cathcart made up a back three, Stuart Dallas and Shane Ferguson operated in the wing back positions and Liam Boyce and Josh Magennis were up front.

But even though they had a scare with Edgar Yoel Barcenas hitting the bar and Hughes having to clear off the line from Adolfo Machado, O'Neill believes his players stood up to the Panama challenge and didn't allow the hosts to dictate their gameplan. He was even able to throw on four young players – three made their international debuts, Bailey Peacock Farrell, Jordan Thompson and Shayne Lavery – and Paul Smyth was given the chance to earn his second cap.

Northern Ireland's Green and White Army on tour in Central America [Photos] Close

Northern Ireland fans ahead of Tuesday evenings International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City. Pic: PressEye William Cherry

Northern Ireland fans ahead of Tuesday evenings International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City. Pic: PressEye William Cherry

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 03rd June 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland fans before Sunday mornings International Friendly against Costa Rica at the Nuevo Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica in San Jose.   Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 03rd June 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland fans before Sunday mornings International Friendly against Costa Rica at the Nuevo Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica in San Jose. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 03rd June 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland fans before Sunday mornings International Friendly against Costa Rica at the Nuevo Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica in San Jose.   Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 03rd June 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland fans before Sunday mornings International Friendly against Costa Rica at the Nuevo Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica in San Jose. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 03rd June 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland fans before Sunday mornings International Friendly against Costa Rica at the Nuevo Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica in San Jose.   Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 03rd June 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland fans before Sunday mornings International Friendly against Costa Rica at the Nuevo Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica in San Jose. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 03rd June 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland fans before Sunday mornings International Friendly against Costa Rica at the Nuevo Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica in San Jose.   Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 03rd June 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland fans before Sunday mornings International Friendly against Costa Rica at the Nuevo Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica in San Jose. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 03rd June 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland fans before Sunday mornings International Friendly against Costa Rica at the Nuevo Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica in San Jose.   Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 03rd June 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland fans before Sunday mornings International Friendly against Costa Rica at the Nuevo Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica in San Jose. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 03rd June 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland fans before Sunday mornings International Friendly against Costa Rica at the Nuevo Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica in San Jose.   Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 03rd June 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland fans before Sunday mornings International Friendly against Costa Rica at the Nuevo Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica in San Jose. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland fans ahead of Tuesday evenings International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland fans ahead of Tuesday evenings International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland fans during Wednesday nights International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland fans during Wednesday nights International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland fans during Wednesday nights International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland fans during Wednesday nights International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland fans during Wednesday nights International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland fans during Wednesday nights International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland's Corry Evans gives his shirt away to a young fan at the final whistle of Wednesday nights International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Corry Evans gives his shirt away to a young fan at the final whistle of Wednesday nights International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland's Corry Evans gives his shirt away to a young fan at the final whistle of Wednesday nights International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Corry Evans gives his shirt away to a young fan at the final whistle of Wednesday nights International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Northern Ireland fans ahead of Tuesday evening's International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Northern Ireland fans ahead of Tuesday evening's International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland fan Megan Lewis ahead of Tuesday evenings International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland fan Megan Lewis ahead of Tuesday evenings International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland fans before Wednesday nights International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland fans before Wednesday nights International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland fans before Wednesday nights International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland fans before Wednesday nights International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland fans before Wednesday nights International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland fans before Wednesday nights International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland fans before Wednesday nights International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland fans before Wednesday nights International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland fans before Wednesday nights International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland fans before Wednesday nights International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 26th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland's Josh Magennis, Gareth McAuley and Stuart Dallas pictured in Panama City on the first day of their summer tour to Panama and Costa Rica.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 26th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Josh Magennis, Gareth McAuley and Stuart Dallas pictured in Panama City on the first day of their summer tour to Panama and Costa Rica.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 26th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill pictured at the team hotel in Panama City on the first day of their summer tour to Panama and Costa Rica.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 26th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill pictured at the team hotel in Panama City on the first day of their summer tour to Panama and Costa Rica.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 26th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland players pictured during Sunday afternoons training session at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City on the first day of their summer tour.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 26th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland players pictured during Sunday afternoons training session at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City on the first day of their summer tour.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 26th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland players pictured during Sunday afternoons training session at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City on the first day of their summer tour.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 26th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland players pictured during Sunday afternoons training session at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City on the first day of their summer tour.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 26th May 2018 - Photo by IFA/Presseye

Northern Ireland players during Sunday afternoons training session at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City on the first day of their summer tour.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 26th May 2018 - Photo by IFA/Presseye Northern Ireland players during Sunday afternoons training session at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City on the first day of their summer tour.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 26th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland's Paddy McNair and Stuart Dallas pictured during Sunday afternoons training session at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City on the first day of their summer tour.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 26th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Paddy McNair and Stuart Dallas pictured during Sunday afternoons training session at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City on the first day of their summer tour.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 28th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland players visit the Panama Canal on Monday morning as part of their summer tour to Panama and Cost Rica. The Canal is a 77.1-kilometre ship canal in Panama that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 28th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland players visit the Panama Canal on Monday morning as part of their summer tour to Panama and Cost Rica. The Canal is a 77.1-kilometre ship canal in Panama that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 28th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland players Liam Boyce, Craig Cathcart and Jonny Evans visit the Panama Canal on Monday morning as part of their summer tour to Panama and Cost Rica. The Canal is a 77.1-kilometre ship canal in Panama that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 28th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland players Liam Boyce, Craig Cathcart and Jonny Evans visit the Panama Canal on Monday morning as part of their summer tour to Panama and Cost Rica. The Canal is a 77.1-kilometre ship canal in Panama that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 28th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland players visit the Panama Canal on Monday morning as part of their summer tour to Panama and Cost Rica. The Canal is a 77.1-kilometre ship canal in Panama that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 28th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland players visit the Panama Canal on Monday morning as part of their summer tour to Panama and Cost Rica. The Canal is a 77.1-kilometre ship canal in Panama that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 28th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland players visit the Panama Canal on Monday morning as part of their summer tour to Panama and Cost Rica. The Canal is a 77.1-kilometre ship canal in Panama that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 28th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland players visit the Panama Canal on Monday morning as part of their summer tour to Panama and Cost Rica. The Canal is a 77.1-kilometre ship canal in Panama that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 28th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland players visit the Panama Canal on Monday morning as part of their summer tour to Panama and Cost Rica. The Canal is a 77.1-kilometre ship canal in Panama that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 28th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland players visit the Panama Canal on Monday morning as part of their summer tour to Panama and Cost Rica. The Canal is a 77.1-kilometre ship canal in Panama that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 28th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland players visit the Panama Canal on Monday morning as part of their summer tour to Panama and Cost Rica. The Canal is a 77.1-kilometre ship canal in Panama that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 28th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland players visit the Panama Canal on Monday morning as part of their summer tour to Panama and Cost Rica. The Canal is a 77.1-kilometre ship canal in Panama that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 28th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill at the Panama Canal on Monday morning as part of their summer tour to Panama and Cost Rica. The Canal is a 77.1-kilometre ship canal in Panama that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 28th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill at the Panama Canal on Monday morning as part of their summer tour to Panama and Cost Rica. The Canal is a 77.1-kilometre ship canal in Panama that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 28th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland players visit the Panama Canal on Monday morning as part of their summer tour to Panama and Cost Rica. The Canal is a 77.1-kilometre ship canal in Panama that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 28th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland players visit the Panama Canal on Monday morning as part of their summer tour to Panama and Cost Rica. The Canal is a 77.1-kilometre ship canal in Panama that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 28th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland players visit the Panama Canal on Monday morning as part of their summer tour to Panama and Cost Rica. The Canal is a 77.1-kilometre ship canal in Panama that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 28th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland players visit the Panama Canal on Monday morning as part of their summer tour to Panama and Cost Rica. The Canal is a 77.1-kilometre ship canal in Panama that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by IFA/Presseye

The Estadio Rommel Fernandez in Panama City where Northern Ireland will take on Panama in Wednesday nights International Friendly.     Photo by IFA/Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by IFA/Presseye The Estadio Rommel Fernandez in Panama City where Northern Ireland will take on Panama in Wednesday nights International Friendly. Photo by IFA/Presseye

©William Cherry / Presseye

Josh Magennis and Gareth McAuley during Northern Ireland's trip to central America last year.

Josh Magennis and Gareth McAuley during Northern Ireland's trip to central America last year.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 26th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland's Conor McLaughlin pictured at the team hotel in Panama City on the first day of their summer tour to Panama and Costa Rica.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 26th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Conor McLaughlin pictured at the team hotel in Panama City on the first day of their summer tour to Panama and Costa Rica.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 28th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill at the Panama Canal on Monday morning as part of their summer tour to Panama and Cost Rica. The Canal is a 77.1-kilometre ship canal in Panama that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 28th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill at the Panama Canal on Monday morning as part of their summer tour to Panama and Cost Rica. The Canal is a 77.1-kilometre ship canal in Panama that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 28th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland's Aaron Hughes at the Panama Canal on Monday morning as part of their summer tour to Panama and Cost Rica. The Canal is a 77.1-kilometre ship canal in Panama that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 28th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Aaron Hughes at the Panama Canal on Monday morning as part of their summer tour to Panama and Cost Rica. The Canal is a 77.1-kilometre ship canal in Panama that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 26th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland's Paul Smyth pictured during Sunday afternoons training session at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City on the first day of their summer tour.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 26th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Paul Smyth pictured during Sunday afternoons training session at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City on the first day of their summer tour.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 28th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill  during Monday evenings training session at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 28th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill during Monday evenings training session at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 28th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland's Gareth McAuley during Monday evenings training session at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 28th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Gareth McAuley during Monday evenings training session at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 28th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland goalkeeper Conor Hazard during Monday evenings training session at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 28th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland goalkeeper Conor Hazard during Monday evenings training session at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 26th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland's Jonny Evans during Sunday afternoons training session at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City on the first day of their summer tour.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 26th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Jonny Evans during Sunday afternoons training session at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City on the first day of their summer tour.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 26th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland's Jonny Evans during Sunday afternoons training session at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City on the first day of their summer tour.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 26th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Jonny Evans during Sunday afternoons training session at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City on the first day of their summer tour.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 28th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland players Liam Boyce, Craig Cathcart and Jonny Evans visit the Panama Canal on Monday morning as part of their summer tour to Panama and Cost Rica. The Canal is a 77.1-kilometre ship canal in Panama that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 28th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland players Liam Boyce, Craig Cathcart and Jonny Evans visit the Panama Canal on Monday morning as part of their summer tour to Panama and Cost Rica. The Canal is a 77.1-kilometre ship canal in Panama that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 26th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland's Jonny Evans recovers after the heat of Sunday afternoons training session at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City on the first day of their summer tour.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 26th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Jonny Evans recovers after the heat of Sunday afternoons training session at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City on the first day of their summer tour.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 26th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland's Jonny Evans during Sunday afternoons training session at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City on the first day of their summer tour.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 26th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Jonny Evans during Sunday afternoons training session at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City on the first day of their summer tour.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 28th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland's Jonny Evans during Monday evenings training session at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 28th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Jonny Evans during Monday evenings training session at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 28th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill with Jonny Evans during Monday evenings training session at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 28th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill with Jonny Evans during Monday evenings training session at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 28th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland's Jonny Evans during Monday evenings training session at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 28th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Jonny Evans during Monday evenings training session at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

 

McNair was consistently rampaging into the Panama half, Boyce looked a threat while McAuley was dangerous from Magennis' long throws.

O'Neill states: “McNair was immense – he really was fabulous – while McAuley, Cathcart...good to have Craig back playing. There were no negatives for us at all.

“We possibly would have liked to create a bit more in the game, our final ball could have been a bit better at times, however the conditions we were playing in were incredible for the players to have to ome at this stage of their season, with the level of preparation we've had.”

But O'Neill, who will lead Northern Ireland on a charter flight to Costa Rica this evening, says: “You can't ask for anymore – their heart, their desire. Years ago Northern Ireland used to come to places like this, lose the game and it didn't really matter.

“It matters to the players now, they don't want to be beaten. We've come off the disappointment of not going to the World Cup. We beat South Korea and made sure we weren't beaten against Panama. We ended up with four Under-21 players on the pitch – there are a huge amount of plus points.”

Panama 0-0 Northern Ireland [photos] Close

Paddy McNair was Northern Ireland's stand-out player against Panama.

Paddy McNair was Northern Ireland's stand-out player against Panama.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill during Wednesday nights International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill during Wednesday nights International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland bench during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland bench during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Panama police dog on the pitch during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Panama police dog on the pitch during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland bench during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland bench during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Panama servicemen during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Panama servicemen during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Panama's Felipe Baloy with Northern Ireland's Josh Magennis during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Panama's Felipe Baloy with Northern Ireland's Josh Magennis during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill during Wednesday nights International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill during Wednesday nights International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Panama's Felipe Baloy with Northern Ireland's Josh Magennis during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Panama's Felipe Baloy with Northern Ireland's Josh Magennis during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland's Jonny Evans at the final whistle of Wednesday nights International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Jonny Evans at the final whistle of Wednesday nights International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland's Gareth McAuley and Jonny Evans at the final whistle of Wednesday nights International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Gareth McAuley and Jonny Evans at the final whistle of Wednesday nights International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland's Gareth McAuley and Jonny Evans at the final whistle of Wednesday nights International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Gareth McAuley and Jonny Evans at the final whistle of Wednesday nights International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland's Jonny Evans at the final whistle of Wednesday nights International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Jonny Evans at the final whistle of Wednesday nights International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland's Gareth McAuley and Jonny Evans at the final whistle of Wednesday nights International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Gareth McAuley and Jonny Evans at the final whistle of Wednesday nights International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland's Jonny Evans at the final whistle of Wednesday nights International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Jonny Evans at the final whistle of Wednesday nights International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland's Craig Cathcart and Gareth McAuley at the final whistle of Wednesday nights International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Craig Cathcart and Gareth McAuley at the final whistle of Wednesday nights International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland's Aaron Hughes is exhausted at the final whistle of Wednesday nights International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Aaron Hughes is exhausted at the final whistle of Wednesday nights International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland's Corry Evans gives his shirt away to a young fan at the final whistle of Wednesday nights International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Corry Evans gives his shirt away to a young fan at the final whistle of Wednesday nights International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland's Aaron Hughes is exhausted at the final whistle of Wednesday nights International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Aaron Hughes is exhausted at the final whistle of Wednesday nights International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland's Aaron Hughes is exhausted at the final whistle of Wednesday nights International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Aaron Hughes is exhausted at the final whistle of Wednesday nights International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland's Jonny Evans is exhausted at the final whistle of Wednesday nights International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Jonny Evans is exhausted at the final whistle of Wednesday nights International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland's Jonny Evans is exhausted at the final whistle of Wednesday nights International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Jonny Evans is exhausted at the final whistle of Wednesday nights International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Panama's Roman Torres with Northern Ireland's Shayne Lavery

Panama's Roman Torres with Northern Ireland's Shayne Lavery

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland's Bailey Peacock-Farrell during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Bailey Peacock-Farrell during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Panama's Luis Ovalle with Northern Ireland's Ryan McLaughlin during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Panama's Luis Ovalle with Northern Ireland's Ryan McLaughlin during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Panama's Luis Ovalle with Northern Ireland's Ryan McLaughlin during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Panama's Luis Ovalle with Northern Ireland's Ryan McLaughlin during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Northern Ireland's Ryan McLaughlin in action against Panama last year.

Northern Ireland's Ryan McLaughlin in action against Panama last year.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Panama's Luis Ovalle with Northern Ireland's Ryan McLaughlin during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Panama's Luis Ovalle with Northern Ireland's Ryan McLaughlin during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Panama's Jose Calderon and Luis Ovalle with Northern Ireland's Ryan McLaughlin during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Panama's Jose Calderon and Luis Ovalle with Northern Ireland's Ryan McLaughlin during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Panama's Jose Calderon and Luis Ovalle with Northern Ireland's Ryan McLaughlin during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Panama's Jose Calderon and Luis Ovalle with Northern Ireland's Ryan McLaughlin during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Paddy McNair was Northern Ireland's stand-out player against Panama.

Paddy McNair was Northern Ireland's stand-out player against Panama.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland's Aaron Hughes during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Aaron Hughes during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Shane Ferguson in action during Northern Ireland's tour to Central America earlier this summer.

Shane Ferguson in action during Northern Ireland's tour to Central America earlier this summer.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland's Jonny Evans during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Jonny Evans during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

 Northern Ireland's Bailey Peacock-Farrell and Gareth McAuley during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Bailey Peacock-Farrell and Gareth McAuley during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

 Northern Ireland's Bailey Peacock-Farrell and Gareth McAuley during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Bailey Peacock-Farrell and Gareth McAuley during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Panama's Valentn Pimentel with Northern Ireland's Liam Boyce during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Panama's Valentn Pimentel with Northern Ireland's Liam Boyce during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Panama's Valentn Pimentel with Northern Ireland's Liam Boyce during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Panama's Valentn Pimentel with Northern Ireland's Liam Boyce during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Panama's Jose Luis Rodrguez with Northern Ireland's Aaron Hughes during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Panama's Jose Luis Rodrguez with Northern Ireland's Aaron Hughes during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Panama's Luis Ovalle with Northern Ireland's Stuart Dallas during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Panama's Luis Ovalle with Northern Ireland's Stuart Dallas during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Panama's Luis Ovalle with Northern Ireland's Stuart Dallas during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Panama's Luis Ovalle with Northern Ireland's Stuart Dallas during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

 Northern Ireland's Jordan Thompson during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland's Jordan Thompson during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Panama's Roman Torres with Northern Ireland's Gareth McAuley during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Panama's Roman Torres with Northern Ireland's Gareth McAuley during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Panama's Jose Calderon and Luis Ovalle with Northern Ireland's Josh Magennis during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Panama's Jose Calderon and Luis Ovalle with Northern Ireland's Josh Magennis during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill during Wednesday nights International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill during Wednesday nights International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill during Wednesday nights International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill during Wednesday nights International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill during Wednesday nights International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill during Wednesday nights International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill during Wednesday nights International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill during Wednesday nights International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Panama's Armando Cooper with Northern Ireland's Josh Magennis during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Panama's Armando Cooper with Northern Ireland's Josh Magennis during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Panama's Armando Cooper with Northern Ireland's Josh Magennis during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Panama's Armando Cooper with Northern Ireland's Josh Magennis during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Panama's Luis Tejada with Northern Ireland's Liam Boyce during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Panama's Luis Tejada with Northern Ireland's Liam Boyce during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Panama's Jose Luis Rodrguez with Northern Ireland's Craig Cathcart during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Panama's Jose Luis Rodrguez with Northern Ireland's Craig Cathcart during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Panama's Luis Tejada with Northern Ireland's Liam Boyce during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Panama's Luis Tejada with Northern Ireland's Liam Boyce during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Panama's Luis Tejada with Northern Ireland's Liam Boyce during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Panama's Luis Tejada with Northern Ireland's Liam Boyce during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Panama's Gabriel Gomez with Northern Ireland's Josh Magennis  during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Panama's Gabriel Gomez with Northern Ireland's Josh Magennis during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Panama's Edgar Yoel Barcenas with Northern Ireland's Paddy McNair during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Panama's Edgar Yoel Barcenas with Northern Ireland's Paddy McNair during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Panama's Fidel Escobar with Northern Ireland's Liam Boyce during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Panama's Fidel Escobar with Northern Ireland's Liam Boyce during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Northern Ireland players line up to face Panama.

Northern Ireland players line up to face Panama.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Panama with Northern Ireland during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Panama with Northern Ireland during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Panama with Northern Ireland during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Panama with Northern Ireland during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Panama with Northern Ireland during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Panama with Northern Ireland during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Panama with Northern Ireland during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Panama with Northern Ireland during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill before Wednesday night's International friendly against Panama.

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill before Wednesday night's International friendly against Panama.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill before Wednesday night's International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill before Wednesday night's International Friendly against Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

A band plays before Wednesday nights International Friendly with Panama and Northern Ireland at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye A band plays before Wednesday nights International Friendly with Panama and Northern Ireland at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland kitmen Stephen Ferguson and Raymond Millar during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2018 - Photo by William Cherry/Presseye Northern Ireland kitmen Stephen Ferguson and Raymond Millar during Wednesday nights International Friendly at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City.

©William Cherry / Presseye

 

Northern Ireland were playing Panama on the back drop of a huge farewell party. With so much razzmatazz surrounding the match, the game was actually delayed by 10 mintues. However O'Neill loved all the fireworks, banners, streamers and the marching band. There was also a concert taking place behind the goals to add to the fever pitch atmosphere.

O'Neill says: “It was great, you can see what it means to these people to go to the tournament. The whole country's obviously very excited by what lies ahead.

“It was a good atmosphere for us to come and play in. The pitch wasn't the greatest but the players dealt with it well. To come here after two training sessions, long flight, long travel, to play how we did and to come out and make sure we weren't beaten is very commendable.”

“Panama will face England in their second group match in Russia next month after facing might Belgium in their opening game on June 18

“The English match, with all the Premier League stars in Gareth Southgate's side is the huge glamour game for the Panamanians and they are dreaming of causing their greatest upset in World Cup history.”

Panama fans are hoping for the best but boss O'Neill believes that optimism should be tempered and that England will be too strong for them.

“There's always a chance in tournament football,” admits O'Neill.

“I'll be honest, I would be surprised if England and Belgium don't beat them. In saying that, tournament football is different.

“If someone gets off to a bad start, someone gets off to a good start, that second game can always be very, very interesting. You get momentum, you get confidence. They go and play Norway now. They've had a few difficult games in Europe so they've tried to change how they play when they play European teams.

“We'll see how it goes but it's going to be a tough ask for them to do anything in terms of coming through the first phase of the tournament. They have a great pride in playing for their country.

“We've come off the disappointment of not going to the World Cup. We beat South Korea and made sure we weren't get beaten. We ended up with four Under-21 players on the pitch – there are a huge amount of plus points,” stresses O'Neill.

 

Belfast Telegraph