Northern Ireland exit in Euro 2016 ‘devastating’, says O’Neill


Paris (AFP) – Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill described his team’s Euro 2016 elimination at Wales’ hands on Saturday as “devastating” and said his side had deserved to go through.

“It’s devastating. We were the better team on the day,” O’Neill said. “I couldn’t ask anything more of the players throughout the tournament.”

Northern Ireland, playing in their first major tournament since the 1986 World Cup, produced an excellent defensive display at Parc des Princes in Paris, only to lose to a 75th-minute Gareth McAuley own goal.

The 36-year-old West Bromwich Albion centre-back unwittingly turned the ball into his own net as he attempted to prevent a cross from Wales star Gareth Bale reaching Hal Robson-Kanu.

The defender faced a dilemma, O’Neill said.

“Gareth McAuley knows he has to make one of those decisions on the cross. He had to judge whether there was someone behind him or not,” said the coach.

Competition debutants, Northern Ireland had qualified as the third-best team in Group C, beating Ukraine 2-0 but losing 1-0 to Poland and world champions Germany.

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