The Sunday Post (Newcastle)

O’Neill says no quick fix after deadly Finnish


Michael O’Neill admitted there will be no quick fix to Northern Ireland’s problems after a young side were beaten 4-0 by Finland to make it seven defeats from nine in their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign.

An encouragin­g display in the first 40 minutes in Helsinki unravelled after Isaac Price conceded a penalty shortly before the break, dispatched by Joel Pohjanpalo, with Daniel Hakans adding another just three minutes into the second half.

Late goals from substitute­s Teemu Pukki and Robin Lod added to the misery as Northern Ireland suffered the heaviest defeat of an arduous campaign, in which the only respite has come with home and away wins over minnows San Marino.

“We are in the third tier of European football now in terms of where we are in the Nations League as well, and that is where we are,” said O’Neill.

“We have slipped from where we were previously, that is pretty evident to see.

“We have lost a lot of experience­d players over the last three years but also we have lost a lot of experience­d players specific to this campaign and that is really damaging.”

Ross McCausland made his debut from the start in Helsinki with Michael Forbes coming on as a late substitute to earn his first cap, taking the number of players to have featured for Northern Ireland in this campaign to 33.

In that context, O’Neill said Northern Ireland had not underperfo­rmed, but admitted he needed to reflect on some of his own decisions when it came to the number of young players he had used.

“If I have been guilty, maybe I have to look at myself and think: ‘Have I put too many of the younger players in together too often?’ Possibly that has been the case, so I will evaluate that as well.”

O’Neill had said before Friday’s match it was important for his side to take something from at least one of their other group fixtures. The final chance comes at Windsor Park tomorrow against Denmark, who booked their Euro 2024 place with victory over Slovenia on Friday.

“You have to go in with the belief that we can take something at home,” O’Neill said. “We have just got to continue to try to prepare the team as best we can, to try to give them a chance to take something in any game they go into, and that is what we will do between now and Monday.”

 ?? ?? Finland’s Joel Pohjanpalo in action.
Finland’s Joel Pohjanpalo in action.

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