Milk Cup: Steve Beaglehole still plans final say
Northern Ireland Elite boss Steve Beaglehole has a double mission when his side take on China this evening.
He wants to maintain his unbeaten record at the Milk Cup — and in turn fire his side into their third final in as many years.
Beaglehole boasts a proud record on the North coast, having won every game he has taken charge of — that was until Monday evening.
A draw in that opener against Mexico means Northern Ireland go into tonight’s game against China at the Riada Stadium (8pm) knowing that only a win will give them any chance of making Friday’s final in Ballymena.
With Monday evening’s two winners — Denmark and USA — meeting in Coleraine tonight, there are a number of different permutations which can take Beaglehole’s boys into the final, but each of those require Northern Ireland to play their part and take all three points.
“There are no bones about it, we need to win against China,” said Beaglehole.
“Our record in the Milk Cup is that we’ve played seven games, won six and drawn one.
“We’re disappointed to lose that 100 per cent record and to miss the opportunity to win our first game — for that to happen with four minutes to go is a blow, but we’re still in with a shout and that’s very important.”
Beaglehole will send his players out looking for goals, as it may take goal difference for them to make the decider.
“We’re more than capable of beating China and I feel we’re also more than capable of going out and getting two or three goals,” said Beaglehole.
“I would be very disappointed and surprised if a 3-0 win didn’t get us to the final.
“We’re going out to make the final, we’re not just going to settle for winning the game.”
One player who could have helped Northern Ireland to the goals which are so vital tonight is Cliftonville striker Liam Boyce.
However, Boyce was allowed to pull out of the squad to help his club in last night’s Europa League qualifying tie with CSKA.
“It wasn’t a difficult decision to make because this isn’t a European Championship game,” Beaglehole added.
“If it was and I felt we needed him then Cliftonville wouldn’t have had a say in it.
“However, it was right that he returned to Cliftonville in this instance, he is their player and what they have achieved is terrific and I’m sure he’s played a big part in that.”