Portugal vs. Northern Ireland  1 - 1

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O´Neill hails ´magnificent´ draw with Portugal

17 October 2012 10:06

Michael O'Neill has labelled Northern Ireland's draw with Portugal on Tuesday as one of the side's greatest ever results.

In Cristiano Ronaldo's 100th game for his country, Niall McGinn's strike was cancelled out by a last-gasp Helder Postiga goal and O'Neill was delighted with his players' efforts, insisting they deserved more than a point from the World Cup qualifying clash in Porto.

When asked where the result ranked among previous triumphs, O'Neill said: "It's up there. This is as difficult a place to come, certainly in Europe, against a world-class team.

"All credit goes to the players. They were magnificent. Their work rate, desire, the way they worked for each other - you cannot ask for more than that.

"It was very harsh to lose a goal at the end. Of course, we had to weather severe pressure but at times I thought we passed the ball well, scored a fantastic goal and we're coming out disappointed with a draw.

"The shape of the team was excellent, the work rate, the way they went about the game, was fantastic.

"To go ahead and stifle Portugal was fantastic. I'm disappointed for the players because they deserved a wee bit more than a draw from the game."

The former Shamrock Rovers manager believes the result can act as a springboard for his side after seeing the Ulstermen drop to 117th in the FIFA world rankings.

"They have to take confidence and belief from what they did tonight," O'Neill said.

"Their togetherness and spirit has been unquestionable. At times it has been questioned, but certainly tonight they answered that.

"There is more in this team, because we were down a few bodies. We've got younger players coming into the team all the time.

"If they can continue to improve and grow and obviously have more performances like tonight, then if you have that spirit you will always get something in football."

Article

Bento: Portugal will reach Brazil

17 October 2012 02:09

Portugal manager Paulo Bento said his team will still make it to the World Cup despite a 1-1 draw with Northern Ireland at Estadio Do Dragao.

Helder Postiga equalised for Portugal after Niall McGinn had put his side ahead on the half-hour mark of the World Cup qualifier.

Bento's team now lie third in Group F, behind Russia and Israel, after taking seven points from their first four matches.

"I still believe that we will be in Brazil in 2014," the 43-year-old told RTP.

"The situation depends on us (qualifying) via the play-off, no longer (by being in) first place.

"We are dissatisfied because we would have given joy to the Portuguese (fans) but we can only hope that in the next game we get back on the (right) path.

"It was a bad result and a first-half that we did not play well in.

"It's true that the defence had no problems, although we suffered (from) some anxiety and pressure after the goal.

"In the second-half there was more intensity and we made a series of opportunities that could have won us the match if we had been remotely effective."

Goalscorer Postiga said they were keen to atone against Northern Ireland for previous poor performances, but now have a daunting challenge before them to qualify for the 2014 showpiece event.

"We knew the importance of this game," the 30-year-old said.

"We wanted to avenge the defeat in Russia but could not.

"We must correct these mistakes. The (surrounding) teams are closing further (on us).

"There are still many games to go. We know the importance of putting in a double shift (against Israel and Azerbaijan in March)."

Article

Bruce, McCann sidelined for Portugal trip

13 October 2012 19:05

Northern Ireland will be without Alex Bruce and Grant McCann for their World Cup qualifier away to Portugal on Tuesday.

Hull defender Bruce was due to make his international debut for his new nation after transferring his allegiance from the Republic of Ireland, but a groin strain has forced him to return home.

McCann has sustained a knee injury meaning he will also miss the meeting with the second-placed Portuguese in Group F.

Manager Michael O'Neill was already without the services of West Bromwich Albion captain Chris Brunt and Derby's Jamie Ward through injury.

Bruce's Hull team-mate Joe Dudgeon, Newcastle's Shane Ferguson, Burnley's Martin Paterson and Hibernian's James McPake have also all pulled out of the squad.

O'Neill has already drafted in Bradford's Rory McArdle, Burnley's Daniel Lafferty and Watford's Lee Hodson, but will not be calling up additional replacements for Bruce and McCann.