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O'Neill hails 'fantastic' Northern Ireland

Michael O'Neill believes his Northern Ireland side have "a really good chance of qualification" after overcoming a Ukraine team who felt their work rate was lacking in Lyon.

Northern Ireland celebrate their second goal against Ukraine
Northern Ireland celebrate their second goal against Ukraine ©Getty Images

Michael O'Neill, Northern Ireland manager
It was a fantastic performance in a magnificent stadium. I thought we were positive from the outset. Gareth [McAuley] was exceptional in every aspect.  

I felt we needed to get more running power into our team. It's never easy changing half your team – the players gave me everything on Sunday and it wasn't enough. I had to make those decisions and thankfully it paid off.

We've given ourselves a really good chance of qualification. When we came into the tournament, we knew we were in as tough a group as there is, and we wanted something to play for in the last game. We have a realistic prize at the end of the Germany game and that's immensely pleasing. I'm just delighted for the players. It's the proudest I've felt in a dugout. When you get a performance like that – which is pure commitment, pure heart – there's nothing more you can ask for.

My head was hurting from one or two hailstones, to be honest. [The delay] wasn't ideal at that point. Thankfully it was brief. When you're 1-0 ahead, you don't want anything to upset your momentum. The players were tested in so many ways but they passed everything that was thrown at them.

We do work an awful lot on set pieces. The key is, regardless of all the clever things you do, the quality of the delivery and having someone who's prepared to go and head that ball. It was a phenomenal header. I see Germany score from set pieces, Italy score from set pieces and even Spain score set pieces. It's a part of the game and we're never going to apologise for that. There's no reason why we shouldn't be as good at set pieces as anyone in the world.

McAuley's pride after historic win

Gareth McAuley, Northern Ireland defender and man of the match
It's massive. We obviously won the [qualifying] group coming in here and, from that point on, nobody's given us a chance – lots of people were saying we wouldn't get a point. We weren't at it against Poland really, to our standard – the intensity we wanted to play at – and tonight was a lot better. And we're delighted for every one of the people who came to support us.

We've talked about leaving a legacy from this tournament. Hopefully we can produce more players from Northern Ireland who can get the country to these major tournaments more often. But I've always said it's about the lads around me. If I can chip in with a goal or a block, that's what I'm out there to do. When I look back on it, it'll be extra special, but for tonight it's sinking in.

Mykhailo Fomenko, Ukraine coach
We weren't able to achieve what we wanted today, and now we prepare for the next match and forget what's gone. The players were not united today. They didn't fulfil their remit – especially in terms of our formation and how we played at set pieces.

As far as our opponents are concerned, nothing surprised us. We expected this type of football. I think of the 16 goals they scored in qualifying, nine were from set pieces, so we knew that and we prepared for this kind of football.

We made major mistakes on the pitch. We weren't prepared enough mentally. We're going to work on that to win the next game. Perhaps our players overestimated the opposition and underestimated the effort needed to get victory. We allowed them to play their own football – that's why we lost.

Taras Stepanenko, Ukraine midfielder
It's clear that it was a huge game today and it seems clear that we're out of the tournament. The last game is not going to have any special value for the tournament – just for our prestige.

We worked on set pieces all week, and now we conceded from one. What can I say? This is going to be a great experience for us, because when every game is so important, we have to be more careful, more focused and make more of an impact on the pitch. Unfortunately we didn't manage to do that today and if we look at the work rate, it seems Northern Ireland wanted to win more than we did.