O’Neill calls for more positive Northern Ireland display

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill and captain Steven Davis

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Michael O’Neill and Steven Davis

Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill wants his players to stamp their authority on Thursday’s crucial Group C match against Ukraine in Lyon.

O’Neill’s side, regarded as tournament outsiders, are seeking their first points after an opening loss to Poland.

“Seven teams lost their opening game so it is not as if we have been cut adrift from the tournament,” said O’Neill.

“We need to stifle our opponents and exploit their weaknesses. We did the first part of that well against Poland.

The 46-year-old said he had no injury worries for the match at the impressive 58,000-capacity Stade de Lyon.

O’Neill’s team will be expected to adopt a more positive approach, rather than the policy of containment employed against Poland.

However, the 46-year-old acknowledged that Ukraine will have targeted this group match as the one they are most likely to win and hinted he may resist the temptation to pick another frontman to partner Kyle Lafferty.

“There are not many teams in this tournament who will play with two out and out strikers,” O’Neill said.

“So we have to think about that and whether we will change things during the match.

“We have spent most of our time since the Poland match looking at ways of doing things better.

“The margin between success and failure is so fine. Steven Davis was half an inch from maybe getting an equaliser and that would have put a whole new slant on it.”

O’Neill said Ukraine won 12 corners during their opening 2-0 defeat by Germany and pose a big threat at set pieces.

“We recognise their strengths and have to be ready to match their physicality,” he added.

It has been confirmed that Northern Ireland’s players will wear black armbands against Ukraine in memory of Darren Rodgers, the 24-year-old from Ballymena who died in Nice following his country’s game with Poland there.

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