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Dublin: 1°C Friday 7 May 2021

'A performance to be delighted with' says O'Neill as focus turns to Belgium

It’s next stop Bordeaux.

O'Neill reacts to a missed chance.
O'Neill reacts to a missed chance.
Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

MARTIN O’NEILL and his players return to Versaille tonight with just a single point for their night’s work.

But the Ireland manager insists they travel too with a lot of positives.

“It was a great effort,” O’Neill told RTÉ after this evening’s 1-1 draw with Sweden. “We’ve seen over the last few years that effort is not something we are lacking.

“But the play was really great. We scored the goal just after half time — fantastic goal — and Wes stuck it in magnificently and great work by Seamus Coleman as well.

“And then we had to weather a storm for a little while, a lot of corner kicks that we had to defend as strongly as we could. They were entitled to come into the game at some stage or another but overall there’s just real disappointment at having not taken all three points.

“We deserved them. We absolutely deserved them and three would have been better than one. But nevertheless, a performance to be delighted with.”

A win would have all but have secured Ireland’s passage to the second round but Ciaran Clark’s own goal cancelled out Wes Hoolahan’s excellent strike.

“Of course, of course,” said O’Neill when asked if he regretted not seeing out the tie. “But it’s not as if we didn’t create chances. At half time the game should probably have been beyond Sweden. That’s the nature of football.”

The goalscorer was replaced — by squad captain Robbie Keane late on — as was talismanic forward Jon Walters. Both needed to be saved for the next day, explained O’Neill.

“Wes was struggling. He hasn’t played much football as well. Jon Waters was struggling too. That’s the nature of the competition. It’s tournament football; you don’t get much chance to rest up.

“But again, disappointment”in the dressing room but they shouldn’t be with the nature of the performance.”

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