Belfast Telegraph

We won't wilt in the heat of Nice, insists O'Neill

By Steven Beacom

Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill will be cooler than ice in Nice tomorrow, fully believing that his side will deliver in a red-hot atmosphere against Poland.

O’Neill has remained positive and calm since arriving in France and is determined to stay that way ahead of his country’s first ever game in the European Championships.

He will be ready and has declared his team will be too, even though very few people here think they will make an impression in a group that also contains World champions Germany and Ukraine as well as the Poles.

“We’re used to having that tag of being the underdog and going in against the opposition that we have, we will have that again, but that helps the players mentally in terms of managing the expectation,” said O’Neill.

“On a personal level, I want to make sure the experience is a positive one for myself and the players. To do that, we have to make sure that we are competitive. Our aspiration is to find a way out of the group.

“We approach the tournament confident that we can perform on the big stage and hopefully get results.”

O’Neill is likely to go 3-5-2 with Michael McGovern in goal and Gareth McAuley, Craig Cathcart and Jonny Evans in defence. Paddy McNair may edge out Conor McLaughlin at right wing-back and ditto Stuart Dallas over Shane Ferguson at left wing-back. In midfield will be Steven Davis, Chris Baird and Oliver Norwood with Kyle Lafferty and Jamie Ward in attack, with Conor Washington a dangerous option from the bench.

Belfast Telegraph Digital


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