Time to prove Northern Ireland are no bottlers, pledges Norwich City striker Kyle Lafferty
PUBLISHED: 06:30 16 June 2016
Norwich City striker Kyle Lafferty admits Northern Ireland bottled their Euro 2016 bow, but there will be no repeat against Ukraine in a crucial clash.
Lafferty is promising the real Northern Ireland will turn up for Thursday’s Group C tie in Lyon, after Michael O’Neill’s battlers lost 1-0 to Poland in their first-ever appearance at the European Championship finals on Sunday.
“I think we were overawed,” said Lafferty, who fired his country to the finals with seven goals in qualifying. “We were a shadow of the team that got us here. It’s okay talking about nerves but the fight and the determination were not there either.
“We just got hit by a very good Poland side and we didn’t know what to do.
“Whenever we’ve faced teams like that before we could take control of it, take the game by the scruff of the neck and create chances but we didn’t do that against Poland, we pretty much froze on the spot.
“We can’t expect to produce a performance like we did and get anything from the game.
“We’re not in the qualifiers any more, where you might come up against some of the minnows, we’re playing against the best 24 teams in Europe and if you don’t turn up you’re getting punished. For Michael, for his coaching staff, for all the people who’ve paid good money to come out here, we let them down and we’ll put it right on Thursday.”
Lafferty is adamant Northern Ireland still control their own destiny ahead of facing the Ukrainians, who lost 2-0 to Germany in their opening fixture.
“A win could take us out of this group. We still have belief. We’ve got two games to put it right and I’m sure we’ll give a better performance than we did against Poland,” he said. “We’ll get our heads sorted, get our tactics right and I know we’ll put up a far better performance. Not one player will let the fans down. Even if we don’t get the result we want on Thursday, the fight and determination that got us here will be there.”