NI ‘good enough to compete’

Michael O'Neill suggests Northern Ireland must have more belief if they are going to qualify for Euro 2020.

Friday's 1-0 loss to Austria in Vienna has left Northern Ireland in a relegation battle in the Nations League, but O'Neill is already turning his mind towards the European qualifiers, which begin in earnest in the spring.

Marko Arnautovic's 71st-minute goal was enough to settle Friday's contest in Austria's favour, though Northern Ireland came close to an equaliser when substitute Will Grigg hit the post with an 84th-minute header.

Northern Ireland were understandably less gung-ho away from home, but O'Neill has encouraged his side to be braver in possession, even against top-class opponents.

"We're not going to come here and dominate the ball against a team that is predominantly made up of players from the Bundesliga and the Premier League," he said.

"We had eight Championship players on the pitch and three Premier League players on the pitch. That's the make-up of our squad."

Despite the loss, O'Neill suggests his side should be able to take encouragement away from Vienna, having gone toe-to-toe with a useful team.

"It is a step up for a lot of our players to come to this kind of arena against these kinds of players," he added.

"They have to realise they are good enough to compete, they are good enough to play at this level.

"That's the challenge, but for some of them, they are at the very infancy of their international careers and sometimes having that self-belief and ability to go and play on the front foot, it takes time and experience and they'll be better for having played here."

Northern Ireland are 13/2 to win in Bosnia on Monday, the home side are 11/20 while the draw is 5/2.

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