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O´Neill fires derby passions ahead of Wales showdown

Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill rejected calls from opposite number Chris Coleman to quell emotions surrounding the Euro 2016 last-16 match against Wales.

The Parc des Princes hosts the all-British affair on Saturday, with Coleman concerned that his players bought into the hype to an extent that it affected their display in the 2-1 group-stage loss to England.

As such, he wants his men to ignore the identity of the opposition and follow their gameplan.

But O’Neill insists his players should harness the derby passions and be inspired to turn in “the game of your life”.

Asked whether he agreed with Coleman at the start of his pre-match news conference in Paris, O’Neill said: “No, I don’t. 

“I think I want my team to play with loads of emotion. I want them to fully understand the significance of the game.

“When you look at our performances, especially in the latter two games,
you couldn’t question the effort of the team from the first minute to the last minute.

“I don’t think you can play without emotion. I don’t expect my team to and I think it will be a big factor in the game.”

Englishman Martin Atkinson will referee the match and O’Neill hopes it can offer a demonstration of British football’s most well-regarded qualities.

“The main importance is that we make it a cup tie,” he said “We have an English referee and we want everything that is good about the British game in it.

“We want to do our best within the rules and we expect a good old-fashioned British game.

“Chris is in the same position as I am going into a game of such magnitude. To have the experience we’ve had so far has been wonderful

“The message for the team is simple – play the game of your life. We don’t want this to end we want to be going forward to Lille in the next round.

“We have rung every drop we can out of this experience and we want more.”

While the congested bottom-half of the draw features hosts France, champions Spain, Germany, Italy and England, Wales and Northern Ireland find themselves on the side that appears to offer the tantalising prospect of a tournament outsider making a burst into the latter stage.

O’Neill added: “If me and Chris had been told we would face each other for a place in the quarter-finals I think both of us would have readily accepted that.”

Fri 24 Jun, 2016
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