Michael O'Neill looking to future with Northern Ireland
Watch Northern Ireland take on Austria in the UEFA Nations League on Sunday, live on Sky Sports Football and Sky Sports Main Event
By Matthew Treadwell
Last Updated: 16/11/18 11:53am
Michael O'Neill is already looking to the future as he prepares his Northern Ireland side for their UEFA Nations League game against Austria on Sunday.
O'Neill's team drew 0-0 with the Republic of Ireland on Thursday night in an international friendly, while their relegation from Nations League Group B3 was being confirmed by Austria's goalless draw against Bosnia and Herzegovina at the same time in Vienna.
Northern Ireland are bottom of the group, having lost all three matches to date, but O'Neill has played down their relegation, insisting they will now turn their attentions to improving as a squad in preparation for qualifying for the 2020 Euros and the next World Cup in Qatar in 2022.
"What does relegation from the Nations League mean?" said O'Neill.
"I don't think anyone really knows apart from the fact that when this competition comes around again in two years' time we're playing in League C.
"But in two years' time we'll be trying to qualify for a World Cup rather than the Euros. It hurts us in terms of the play-offs but we're building a team for qualifying, trying to finish in the top two of a group.
"In the last two campaigns we've won a group and finished second.
"I think the team is getting stronger, there's a youthfulness about it and maybe more pace than there has been."
The draw in Dublin continued a number of familiar themes for Northern Ireland in recent games, as they dominated possession and had a string of chances without managing to turn that advantage into goals.
But O'Neill remains upbeat and will use Sunday's game against Austria to work with his players and take the opportunity to ring the changes.
"We'll see where we go but what I do have is 28 players - we let Tom Flanagan go back to Sunderland to play on Saturday - but we have 28 players, no withdrawals, there's a bunch of lads desperate to play," he added.
"It's a healthy situation to be in. We'll probably make a few changes for Sunday. I know everyone will be itching to play."
Watch Northern Ireland v Austria on Sunday. Coverage begins on Sky Sports Football and Sky Sports Main Event at 4:30pm.