Michael O’Neill has praised the spirit of his Northern Ireland players after they secured at least a second-place finish in their World Cup qualifying group thanks to a 2-0 victory over the Czech Republic.
Goals from Jonny Evans and Chris Brunt secured the victory at Windsor Park and the Green and White Army have now won five matches in a row for the first time in their history.
O’Neill’s men are looking to secure qualification for their second successive major tournament and although they are unlikely to catch world champions Germany at the top of the group, they are almost guaranteed a play-off place.
Former international midfielder O’Neill was full of praise for his side after their latest victory, particularly as they achieved the success despite only having 28 per cent of possession.
“It was a difficult game for us because the players envisaged having a bit more of the ball than we had, but the spirit to defend as we did, to work as hard as we did without the ball, but then to be able to use it in the right opportunities when we had it was fantastic,” O’Neill told Sky Sports.
“It was almost like an away performance, to be honest. I have to give credit to the Czech Republic, they made it like that, they passed the ball extremely well but we limited them to very few opportunities.”
O’Neill believes Northern Ireland are now looking good to reach their first World Cup finals since 1986.
He added: “We sit here in a great position now, guaranteed second spot in the group with seven clean sheets out of eight.
It’s a phenomenal record.” Northern Ireland will round off their Group C campaign with a home match against Germany and an away trip to Norway next month.