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O’Neill feels Costa heat

But boss Michael says 3-0 defeat is not a true reflection of his Northern Ireland team

By Paul Ferguson

Defiant Michael O'Neill insisted a 3-0 defeat to World Cup bound Costa Rica was not a true reflection of his team after a heavily depleted Northern Ireland wilted in the midday sun of San Jose yesterday.

Minus 10 regular squad members and with six under 21 players in his panel, O'Neill saw his experimental side crumble in the last match of their Central America tour. Set piece goals from Johan Venegas and Francisco Calvo, along with a Joel Campbell strike, condemned his boys to their heaviest defeat in 18 months.

But O'Neill believes the trip and games against Panama and Costa Rica were worthwhile exercises as he gave four international debuts during the two games.

Celtic's 20 year-old goalkeeper Conor Hazard came on as a second half substitute yesterday to earn his first cap to go with the debuts of Shayne Lavery, Jordan Thompson and Bailey Peacock-Farrell in the 0-0 draw with Panama on Tuesday.

"You have one team highly motivated and going to the World Cup while you look at the team we ended up with on the pitch, it was very, very inexperienced.

"We intentionally picked a squad so those young boys would get an opportunity. If I'm picking a team, there's maybe only three, four, five if I was picking from strength that would start in the Nations League. We're trying to create competition for places and hopefully we get that in September."

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