EURO 2016: Michael O'Neill may change Northern Ireland tactics for crunch Ukraine game
Manager Michael O'Neill accepts he may have to alter Northern Ireland's tactics in Thursday's crunch Euro 2016 clash with Ukraine in Lyon.
O’Neill’s reshuffled 5-4-1 system failed to produce a result against Poland in their opener on Sunday as Arkadiusz Milik’s second-half strike downed Northern Ireland on their first appearance at a finals in three decades.
They could not muster a solitary shot on target over the piece, with Kyle Lafferty cutting an isolated figure up top, as a rejigged formation saw them slip to a first defeat in 13 games.
With a fixture against world champions Germany on the horizon next week, O’Neill knows the importance of getting something from the game against Ukraine and he is prepared to go back to the drawing board to work out how to do so.
“We were in the game for 90 minutes, we were not playing in a game where it’s the last 20 minutes and we’re 3-0 down and nothing to play for,” he stated.
“We did that because our shape was good. The players had a commitment to the shape and to work for each other, we gave everything possible and that kept us in the game.
“While we didn’t have huge amounts of possession Michael (McGovern) wasn’t having to pull off a save every two or three minutes. That was due to the fact we defended well as as a team.
“What we have to look at is how to find a solution to have more attacking threat, that may be personnel, that may be tweaking the system. We know Ukraine will have a different threat, particularly in the wide areas, as opposed to what we had when we felt the main threat was always going to come through (Robert) Lewandowski and Milik.
The physical presence of the Poles was a factor that O’Neill felt caught his team cold and he has urged his players to use that as a learning experience ahead of the Ukrainian test.
“They were very, very powerful in every area of the team and that’s something we’re going to have to adapt to very quickly, because I don’t envisage Ukraine will be any different prospect in that respect,” O’Neill added.
“Having got the opening game out of the way, we have to do better and see what we can take out of the second game.”
Poland’s first ever win at a European Championships sets them up well to qualify from Group C, with Germany also beating Ukraine in the later kick-off.
However, even after taking maximum points from the original contest, Polish coach Adam Nawalka will not plan just to obtain a share of the spoils against the reigning world champions.
“The result doesn’t not change our plans about how we want to play against Germany and how we want to prepare,” he claimed.
“We want to prepare for the win. We have been preparing for Germany for a long time.”