O´Neill still upbeat despite Bucharest defeat

14 November 2014 23:41

Michael O’Neill insists Northern Ireland are still in good shape to qualify for Euro 2016, despite losing 2-0 to Romania in Bucharest.

After opening their campaign with three straight victories, Northern Ireland fell to a first defeat and surrendered top spot in Group F on Friday as Paul Papp scored twice in the second half.

However, with four of their next five fixtures being at home, O’Neill remains hopeful of eventually booking a trip to France.

“We now have two home games to look forward to and have nine points from four matches, three of which were away to the hardest teams in the group,” said the Northern Ireland manager.

“It’s a fantastic start for us and we’ll get ourselves ready for March. I don’t think we could have had a more difficult start to this campaign and we now have to use that platform in the home games.

“They’ll be difficult too, but games five and six are both at home, with the opportunity to get to 15 points. If we can manage to do that, we’ll be in a very strong position.”

Northern Ireland were without captain Steven Davis, Shane Ferguson and Jamie Ward and O’Neill admitted that tested the strength in depth of his squad.

“I couldn’t have asked any more of the players in terms of their commitment and work-rate,” he added on Sky Sports. “We know we can play a bit better, but the players we had unavailable hurt us.

“We defended fantastically well for long, long periods and possibly could have done a little bit better with the chances we had to counter-attack.

“It’s disappointing to concede the goals the way we did, but we still came within 15 minutes of getting a result.

“Romania are a very strong team, though – the strongest in the group and there’s no doubt the best team won on the night.”

Spurs new-boy Soldado targets Champions League

Tottenham Hotspur new boy Roberto Soldado has made it clear he is determined to score the goals that help return the club to the Champions League. The Spanish international arrived at White Hart Lane for a club-record transfer fee, joining a Spurs squad that has a clear target of achieving a top-four finish in this season’s Premier League. Spurs are currently 15/8 to finish in the top four come next May.

 

The striker arrives in the Premier League following a prolific three seasons with Valencia, with Andre Villas-Boas making the 28-year old one of his main transfer targets of the summer. After shelling out a reported £28 million, Soldado has admitted he is keen to repay the faith shown in him by the club by scoring the goals that see Spurs achieve a top-four finish this season.

 

“I’m absolutely honoured to be at this club, to wear the shirt that has so much history. I’m hoping that I can score lots of goals to repay the club’s kindness in signing me. I’ve come here as a striker to score goals,” said the striker following his unveiling at White Hart Lane.

 

“Spurs is a great club and a club that deserves to be in the Champions League. I know it’s a hard league and we have to work and play to that level to get there and I will do my best for the team.”

 

While Spurs will be sticking to the line that they are targeting a top-four finish this season, there is a growing feeling that the club could be capable of possibly challenging for the title. But that might all change should Real Madrid finally tear Gareth Bale from Tottenham’s clutches before the end of this transfer window, with the Paddy Power Gareth Bale betting specials currently showing him to be odds-on to leave this summer.

Guarin: Thank you Villas Boas

“I haven’t spoken to him yet, but if I am here at Inter then I owe him a lot. I know that Inter asked him about me and he responded with some very important words.”

“It’s really important for me to be here at a club like this. Inter are a great institution and I want to win a lot – just like I did at Porto.”

“We won nine trophies in three years and I want to try and repeat that feat here in Italy.”

He is currently on loan from Porto (Inter payed €1.5m for that). If Nerazzurri’s side decides to buy him out, the price will be €12m (buyout clause for Italian team).

Milner on Premiership run

“Carlos is playing for Manchester City and playing well. He got a great hat-trick and Sergio (Aguero) was fantastic.”

“There were a number of great performances at the weekend so it’s pointless thinking about what might have been.”

“We’re lucky to have a player like Carlos Tevez playing the way he is and hopefully we get a few more hat-tricks out of him between now and the end of the season.”

“We’ll just keep doing what we’ve done all year and concentrate on our business. We’ve got tough games left and we’ll try and win the rest of those and see where that takes us.”

“Manchester United are obviously a top side. They’ve got that experience of winning trophies and been there year upon year.”

“We’ve performed well; we’ve had a great result at the weekend. All we can do is concentrate on our business and if that’s good enough then great, and if not we’ll learn from our mistakes that we’ve made this year and try and go again next year.”

Mancini on Balotelli

On question if the club plan to sell Mario at the end of the season, Roberto said: “Probably but I don’t know, it depends because Balotelli is a fantastic player.  We want 11 players but with Mario on the pitch every time we play we risk him being sent off. We have six games and he will not play in the next six games.”

“I love him like a guy, I love him like a player, I know him, he’s not a bad guy, he’s a fantastic player but in this moment I am very sorry for him because he continues to lose his talent and his quality.”

“I hope he understands that he is in a bad way for his future and he can change. If Mario continues like this I probably agree but I hope always that he can change his behaviour.”

“Mario is young, he is 22 and I understand that when you are young you can make some mistakes. There are a lot of people who make mistakes. I hope for him, not for me, that he can change.”

“It’s clear he created a big problem but he has scored a lot of important goals. Mario is Mario when he does a mistake because he is young and doesn’t understand but it’s also Mario when he scores two goals when we won 6-1 (against Manchester UTD). It’s Mario when he scores a penalty in the last second against Tottenham.”