Michael O'Neill praises Northern Ireland squad for showing immense personal pride in UEFA Euro 2024 qualifying victory over Denmark
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Isaac Price and Dion Charles scored second-half goals to secure victory for the hosts against a Danish outfit packed full of Champions League experience and who are currently ranked 56 places higher.
“We had to set the team up to play in a defensive manner, which isn't easy at home,” he said. "It's not easy for the crowd but it was necessary because we weren't going to be able to go toe-to-toe with Denmark.
"I thought the two goals were terrific.
"We knew if we played deeper they'd have plenty of men ahead of the ball, which they had, and it worked for us.
"Where we've struggled is when we've had to break down tight defensive areas and that's not where we're strong at this minute as a team.
"The pride of the team showed in that we didn't have anything to play for other than our own personal pride and their attitude was terrific."
After losing seven of 10 qualifying matches – the other two victories were against San Marino – this was an important confidence boost for a squad that had four starters aged 21 or under, including goal hero Price.
While wanting to attack and score goals, O’Neill acknowledged that Northern Ireland may have to adapt their style when taking on world football’s elite.
"The biggest thing for me is understanding how we can compete at this level and how we can win,” he added. "Overall we have to recognise when we play teams at a certain level this is probably how we're going to have to play going forward.
"We had four lads under-21 starting tonight and two of our defenders play their football at League One level, so it's a massive step up given that they are bringing on (Yussuf) Poulsen who plays for Red Bull Leipzig.
"These are Champions League players we're playing against and I thought they gave a fantastic account of themselves.
"That's all part of the experience for them."