Belfast Telegraph

World Cup 2018

Fixtures & Results

Sweden SWE 1

South Korea KOR 0

REPORT

Belgium BEL 3

Panama PAN 0

REPORT

Tunisia TUN 1

England ENG 2

REPORT

Colombia COL 1

Japan JPN 2

REPORT

Poland POL 1

Senegal SEN 2

REPORT

Russia RUS 3

Egypt EGY 1

REPORT

Portugal POR 1

Morocco MAR 0

REPORT

Uruguay URY 1

Saudi Arabia SAU 0

REPORT

Iran IRN 0

Spain ESP 1

REPORT

Denmark DNK

Australia AUS

France FRA

Peru PER

Argentina ARG

Croatia CRO

Brazil BRA

Costa Rica CRI

Nigeria NGA

Iceland ISL

Serbia SRB

Switzerland SUI

Belgium BEL

Tunisia TUN

South Korea KOR

Mexico MEX

Germany GER

Sweden SWE

England ENG

Panama PAN

Japan JPN

Senegal SEN

Poland POL

Colombia COL

Saudi Arabia SAU

Egypt EGY

Uruguay URY

Russia RUS

Spain ESP

Morocco MAR

Iran IRN

Portugal POR

Denmark DNK

France FRA

Australia AUS

Peru PER

Iceland ISL

Croatia CRO

Nigeria NGA

Argentina ARG

Mexico MEX

Sweden SWE

South Korea KOR

Germany GER

Switzerland SUI

Costa Rica CRI

Serbia SRB

Brazil BRA

Senegal SEN

Colombia COL

Japan JPN

Poland POL

Panama PAN

Tunisia TUN

England ENG

Belgium BEL

Nobody wants to play us now, says Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill

 

By Paul Ferguson

Triumphant manager Michael O'Neill believes teams throughout Europe will want to avoid his all-conquering Northern Ireland side in the World Cup play-offs.

O'Neill's men secured second place in Group C last night, five points behind leaders Germany, with a sensational 2-0 victory over the Czech Republic after first half goals from West Brom duo Jonny Evans and Chris Brunt.

But they have also likely assured their place in the play-offs in November for the right to reach Russia next year.

With only eight of the nine second placed teams in the groups going through to the play-offs, 13 points - as the wins over San Marino are discounted - should be enough for Northern Ireland to claim a place as back in 2014, 11 points was enough to see Croatia reach the two-legged affair.

O'Neill, having watched his side record their seventh clean sheet of the campaign, the best defensive record in Europe, knows his charges are now a respected force throughout the continent.

"The opposition will be what it will be," said O'Neill. "Hopefully the draw - if and when we're in that position - will be somewhat kind to us. It's very difficult, who would you want in that scenario? Probably teams would say they wouldn't mind playing Northern Ireland, but if they look at us over this campaign they'll probably say, actually no, we'd rather avoid Northern Ireland.

"But the fear is also getting to the play-offs and not getting through it."

It was another magical night at Windsor Park as Northern Ireland created yet more history by winning five consecutive internationals.

Northern Ireland were forced to soak up a great deal of pressure, however due to the stubborn resistance of the defence led courageously by man of the match Jonny Evans and the Czechs never really threatened Michael McGovern's goal.

O'Neill admitted: "I'm delighted with the result.

"We knew it would be tough and for long periods we didn't have the ball, but due to our defending, I can't remember Michael (McGovern) having to make any meaningful saves.

"You must show great patience when you don't have the ball and I thought our ability to get to the ball, maintain our shape and capitalise on chances - two set pieces for the goals - was fantastic."

Evans' headed goal, at the end of a week when he missed out on a big money move to Manchester City in the transfer window, was his first for his country since 2009 against Poland.

It capped a man of the match display by the West Brom captain.

O'Neill added: "Jonny's been brilliant this week as he's had a lot on his plate but he deals with it so well and his performances in both of the games were fantastic.

"The Czechs are physical and they had a lot of movement in front of them so you need a player with top-class game intelligence, something he has in abundance.

"We have played eight games, there has been seven clean sheets and Jonny Evans has played in all eight games for us. I don't think that's a coincidence."

Northern Ireland retain their proud home record of not having lost a competitive home fixture in Belfast since going down to Portugal in September 2013.

O'Neill's men have conceded only two goals in eight matches in this campaign, both away to Germany last year. No team has scored against the men in green in a home qualifier since Greece were dispatched 3-1 in October 2015 in the match which secured Euro 2016 qualification.

Belfast Telegraph

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph