Thursday 22 February 2018

O'Neill wants North to play 'ugly'

Michael O'Neill of Northern Ireland. Photo: Handout/Getty Images
Michael O'Neill of Northern Ireland. Photo: Handout/Getty Images

James Ducker

Michael O'Neill bristled somewhat at suggestions from one of Ukraine's players yesterday that Northern Ireland were all about "high crosses and lots of scrambling".

There was, though, an admission from O'Neill that his team will have to revert to being "ugly" if they are to keep alive their Euro 2016 hopes after an opening defeat to Poland and stave off what the manager described as "the natural fear" of going home early.

Northern Ireland will need to find a better balance between defence and attack than they managed during their 1-0 loss to Poland when they sat so deep that lone striker Kyle Lafferty became horribly isolated and captain and playmaker Steven Davis could not get into the game.

That could entail a switch from a three-man defence to a flat back four as well as a couple of personnel changes, mindful of Ukraine's threat on the flanks from Yevhen Konoplyanka and Andriy Yarmolenko.

But most of all O'Neill wants to see more aggression, more tenacity, as well as more invention.

"What we didn't do (against Poland) was the ugly part of the game - being really competitive - and that's something we generally do well," the manager said.

Meanwhile, Ukraine defender Artem Fedetskiy has denied a newspaper story that they left cigarette butts and beer cans in their dressing room following their loss to Germany.

"I was in the changing room and, please believe me, there was nothing like that," the 31-year-old said.

"We are a normal team. We have no players who drink beer. I think the information is wrong. We behave in a civilised way. Maybe someone wants to provoke us. You can check the DNA from the cigarettes!" (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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