Northern Ireland v Korea Republic


It’s hard to believe that it is over four months since we trudged off the sodden turf of Basel’s St Jakob’s Park, our World Cup dreams in tatters, but our heads held high after a stirring and spirited attempt to wrest the tie back from Switzerland.

Disappointment doesn’t start to describe the emotion we all felt that rainy night. It truly was a ‘so close and yet so far away’ moment. Who can ever forget the goal-line clearance in the 93rd minute? However that, of course, is now history. We are not heading to Russia for the World Cup, rather we must regroup and plan for our UEFA Nations League and Euro 2020 qualification campaigns. In the intervening period I have been delighted that the Irish FA has shown confidence and faith in me for the next few years and I am pleased that the work we have started and the momentum of success we have worked to achieve can be maintained over the forthcoming campaigns. The support of the players, backroom staff and the fans was and remains instrumental in all of this. We certainly have some unfinished business, and today sees the start of dealing with it. The match against the Korea Republic this afternoon and the two matches in May/June against Panama and Costa Rica will provide us with meaningful challenges as all three teams have qualified for this summer’s World Cup finals in Russia. Testing ourselves against such teams is vital as we plan and prepare for the Nations League matches

against Bosnia and Herzegovina and Austria in the autumn and the Euro 2020 qualifiers which begin in the spring of 2019. South Korea have superb players, both those we know such as Son of Tottenham and Ki of Swansea and some whom we will come to know better both today and during the World Cup. I have no doubt they will be formidable opponents. They are renowned for their never-say-die attitude and top class fitness. If we are not at the top of our game they will punish us and I will be making this clear to my team. Thanks to all those who have shown their support for me and the team over the past two campaigns. I will strive to maintain the progress and I know that the players – experienced and not so experienced – appreciate your support and are determined to repay it with success. The future starts today, and I believe it will be good. Thanks for your continued support. Michael O’Neill Northern Ireland Manager


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