Michael O’Neill left frustrated as Northern Ireland bow out

‘People didn’t give us a chance of doing anything, but we’ve come within a whisker of getting to the last eight’

 

Wales manager Chris Coleman saluted Northern Ireland and said that “luck shone on us today” after Gareth McAuley’s own goal 15 minutes from the end proved to be to the slim difference in a tight match short on clear chances in Paris.

The Wales bench were generous with their applause for the Irish players as they trooped off the pitch and it continued afterwards when Coleman accepted that his team’s victory was “ugly”.

“We didn’t really play well at all and that wasn’t our fault,” Coleman said. “That’s credit to Northern Ireland, who do what they do very well. They’ve been brilliant, Northern Ireland.

“My boys attempted to play but we couldn’t. So it was an ugly win for us. But who cares?”

A hugely deflated Michael O’Neill cared. Frustrated by some late Wales time-wasting, O’Neill said: “I felt it was a very tight game and I felt we had the better of that, to be honest.

“It’s a very, very cruel way to lose a game and I don’t think we deserved to lose it with a goal of that nature.”

Asked to consider Northern Ireland’s tournament as a whole, O’Neill replied: “At this minute it’s difficult to reflect. When we came in to it, people didn’t give us a chance of doing anything, but we’ve come within a whisker of getting to the last eight and I don’t think that would have been undeserved had we got that today.

“It’s very difficult to quantify how we’ve done in the tournament as a whole at this minute. The players have been tremendous, their effort and commitment, their pride in playing for their country, it’s been a fantastic experience for everyone.

“But when it ends as it has today it’s very cruel. As I said, I don’t think we got what we deserved today.”

Coleman agreed, saying the game was “much tougher” than Wales had foreseen.

“Tactically, we were fantastic today,” added O’Neill. “What we worked on with very little time to turn things around was implemented to the letter. Jonny Evans was magnificent against Bale, Corry Evans against Ramsey.

“Right through the team I thought we were very aggressive in terms of when he pressed at the right times. The shape of the team was excellent and it gave us a platform to go and try and win the game.”

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