Northern Ireland’s qualification to the second round of Euro 2016 was confirmed on Tuesday and manager Michael O’Neill made no apologies for how they got there.
O’Neill’s men finished third in Group C after a 1-0 defeat to world champions Germany, Mario Gomez netting the winner in the first half in Paris.
And Turkey’s subsequent 2-0 success over Czech Republic in Group D meant Northern Ireland were assured of a spot in the last 16 as one of the four best third-placed sides.
Germany were utterly dominant at the Parc des Princes, but O’Neill had no complaints about his team’s display, pointing to the gulf in class between the two nations.
“First of all, if the other team have the ball in football, you have to defend. You don’t set a team up intentionally to go and defend, but you have to be realistic,” he said.
“It’s not my job to set a team up for Joachim Low’s team to come and beat us 7-0. It’s not much fun for my players so I won’t do that.
“The nature of the competition is such that small teams deserve the opportunity, we earned our right to be here. We earned a right to be in the round of 16.
“If people are upset at how we play, the nature of how we played, then I don’t really care to be honest. We’re a very small nation with a very small group of players.”
Northern Ireland must wait to discover whether they will face Wales in Paris or hosts France in Lyon in the next round.
On pitting their wits against Germany, boss O’Neill said: “I think the players will take an awful lot from it.
“Experience of playing this level opposition can only help us. If the opportunity is given to us to play France in Lyon it will be amazing game to be involved in.
“We hope this experience will help us.”
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