Northern Ireland coach Michael O’Neill has lauded veteran defender Gareth McAuley, whose own goal resulted in their exit from Euro 2016.
O’Neill’s team were tactically shrewd against Wales at the Parc des Princes in Paris but were undone in the 75th minute when McAuley turned into his own net under pressure from Hal Robson-Kanu following a Gareth Bale cross.
However, O’Neill absolved the 36-year-old of any blame for Northern Ireland’s exit, instead praising his role in their rise to prominence on the international stage.
“Gareth knows that it’s just one of those crosses that he had to get a touch to,” he told the BBC.
“He’s been magnificent for me, not just at this tournament but since I’ve been the manager, but it’s a real shame for him because he’s been magnificent throughout this tournament.”
While Northern Ireland will travel home from France, Wales will prepare for a quarter-final against either Belgium or Hungary.
“It’s devastating. We were the better team on the day,” O’Neill continued. “I couldn’t have asked for anything more of the players throughout the tournament.”