Gareth McAuley believes Northern Ireland’s players did their country proud in their historic 2-0 triumph over Ukraine at Euro 2016 on Thursday.
Defender McAuley broke the deadlock with a second-half header before substitute Niall McGinn wrapped up Northern Ireland’s maiden win at a European Championship finals with an injury-time strike.
After a disappointing performance in their 1-0 loss to Poland in their Group C opener on Sunday, manager Michael O’Neill made five changes to his starting XI in Lyon.
He was rewarded with a vastly improved display, with the positive result also setting up a huge clash with Germany in Paris on June 21.
“We had a point to prove to ourselves,” McAuley told ITV.
“It’s pleasing. We’ve a tough game ahead but we are delighted. Lots of people were saying we wouldn’t get a point.
“We thought we let ourselves down with the intensity we played at (against Poland). We just didn’t get that right. We weren’t at it against Poland, not to your standards.
“The lads will take confidence from this because we had been written off.”
McAuley headed home Oliver Norwood’s 49th-minute free-kick to break the deadlock, meaning the West Brom player scored his country’s first goal at a major international tournament in 30 years.
“It’s special. It will sink in over the next few days,” he said of the goal.
“But it was the team performance that was pleasing, the reaction after getting beaten by Poland and now we’ve got a tough game to look forward to now.
“We’ve given ourselves something to play for and that’s what we wanted.”
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