Ireland in playoffs despite loss to Norway

  • Ireland in playoffs despite loss to Norway

Ireland in playoffs despite loss to Norway

Michael O'Neill welcomed the challenge of heading into the World Cup play-offs as an unseeded side following their 1-0 loss in Norway on Sunday.

Slovakia's rise to second place in Group F had ensured Northern Ireland would progress earlier on Sunday, with O'Neill believing that result allowed his team to play with more freedom - even if they were beaten 1-0 in Oslo courtesy of a freakish Chris Brunt own goal.

It did not mean that Northern Ireland's final Group C game against the Norwegians was meaningless, however.

A victory over Norway was still important if they wanted to stand a chance of being seeded for that draw, yet Brunt's freakish own goal 19 minutes from time, in which he hacked an attempted left-footed clearance into his net, essentially scuppered those hopes as they fell to defeat. People were asking me questions about whether I had two teams in mind - trust me, it's not possible to do that.

United midfielder Eunan O'Kane's chances of featuring at the World Cup hinge on tonight's clash between the Republic of Ireland and Wales in Cardiff, a match which will decide the play-off spot in Group D. Northern Ireland players have the yellow card and they are on the edge of suspension. We'll just have to deal with whoever comes in the draw. The result, whilst it's unfortunate for Scotland, it's a boost for us, and we know now we're going to be in those eight positions.

"Personally I don't know whether it is good thing or bad thing to know that because there is then no pressure to win the game".

The Northern Irish, now ranked fifth of the eight playoff teams with the top four being seeded, played plenty of tidy football but despite some late chances the game slipped away. "We managed to get through the game without losing anybody and that was a bonus for us".