Michael O'Neill not focused on Northern Ireland future after World Cup dream is ended by Switzerland

Michael O’Neill praised his players’ effort and was proud of their performance after Northern Ireland lost 1-0 on aggregate to Switzerland after a 0-0 draw in Basel.

Michael O'Neill says he is not giving his future any thought after Northern Ireland's World Cup dream was ended by Switzerland on Sunday evening.

Northern Ireland lost 1-0 on aggregate to the Swiss, who booked a spot in Russia after battling to a 0-0 draw in Basel.

It was a cruel end to Northern Ireland's qualifying campaign, having finished second behind world champions Germany in Group C to reach the play-offs.

But having seen his name thrown in the ring for a number of Premier League vacancies, O'Neill said his only focus was on looking after his "devastated" players.

Highlights of Northern Ireland's World Cup qualifier play-off second leg against Switzerland.

"I'm not giving it any thought. I don't think it's a reasonable question to ask me to be fair. My focus is with the players in the dressing room," O'Neill told Sky Sports after the match.

"They couldn't have given any more. What they gave for me, what they gave for each other, what they gave for their country was phenomenal.

"That performance was magnificent. Ultimately we have gone out to a really poor decision in the first leg - our reaction to what happened on Thursday night was fabulous.

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Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill embraces Jamie Ward after the FIFA World Cup Qualifying second leg match at St Jakob Park, Basel.
Image: Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill embraces Jamie Ward after the defeat

"We were the better team I felt. Yes we had to ride our luck at times, but we were pushing until the end with the dream still alive to go to the World Cup.

"There's a devastated bunch of players in there, but I couldn't be any prouder of their efforts."

As O'Neill alludes to, it was a contentious first-leg penalty decision which helped Switzerland qualify, and the Northern Ireland boss was left wondering what might have been if they headed into the return leg all square.

Michael O'Neill, manager of Northern Ireland looks dejected
Image: Michael O'Neill, manager of Northern Ireland, looks dejected

"Tonight we played with raw courage," O'Neill added. "We'll have regrets about how we played in the first leg, but ultimately, if it wasn't for the penalty, we'd still be playing extra-time now.

"The referee was very poor in the first leg as we know. Tonight the referee was good in a difficult situation. It's a sore way to lose. We deserve to be in extra-time, but it hasn't happened for us.

"To take a team like Switzerland to the final minutes, it's an amazing achievement for this group of players.

"They were fabulous tonight. We don't always have top-level players but what we had were top-level characters."

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