EURO 2016: Michael O’Neill insists Northern Ireland won’t be going to France to ‘make up the numbers’

Gareth McAuley celebrates Northern Ireland's qualification success
Gareth McAuley celebrates Northern Ireland's qualification success

Michael O’Neill believes Northern Ireland can progress from a tough draw at next summer’s European Championship in France.

World champions Germany, Poland and Ukraine will be Northern Ireland’s opponents in Group C.

O’Neill insists Northern Ireland are not going just for the experience of having not qualified for a major championship final in 30 years.

“Our focus is on being competitive and on finding a way out of the group,” he said.

“I believe we are capable of taking points from Ukraine and Poland before we face Germany.”

Northern Ireland, making their debut at the Euro finals, will face Poland in their opening game on June 12.

They will then meet Ukraine on June 16 before taking on World champions Germany on June 21.

O’Neill added: “I think the most important thing is to take something from your first game.

“The fixtures may work in our favour in that we have Poland and Ukraine before we play Germany.

“We have three Premier League centre backs and they will relish the challenge of playing against Thomas Mueller and Robert Lewandowski.

“We won our qualifying group – people tend to overlook that. And we were the top scorers in our group.

“We have always done better against the bigger nations, like Russia and Portugal in our last World Cup group.”