Michael O’Neill admitted it would take time to shake off the disappointment of Monday’s defeat to Germany but insisted he could take encouragement from Northern Ireland’s performance heading into the remaining fixtures of the Euro 2020 qualifiers.
O’Neill’s first reaction was to call the 2-0 defeat a “wasted opportunity” given some of the chances Northern Ireland passed up during a goalless first half, but he admitted he might have a different view on the game once the dust had settled.
“We can take encouragement,” the manager said. “We can’t control the level of opponents and unfortunately that’s Holland and Germany, we sometimes forget that.
“You just look at the two panels of players and where they play their club football.
“We take encouragement in terms of how we played but the games aren’t going to get any easier and we’re 100 per cent aware of that.
“The next games are going to be very difficult and that puts us in a more difficult position.”
The result sees Germany join Northern Ireland on 12 points from five games before the next round of fixtures, with the Germans quick to recover from Friday’s 4-2 home loss to Holland.
Northern Ireland will travel to Rotterdam to face Holland before the final fixtures in November when they play Germany in Frankfurt and the Dutch in Belfast.
“Now we look to Holland on a head-to-head basis and look for some way to come out on top of that, and that will be very difficult,” O’Neill said.
Among the positives signs that were clear on the night was the performance of a number of the younger players.
Goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell is yet to play a minute for Burnley since his summer move from Leeds but made several key saves, while Norwich’s Jamal Lewis only seems to be get better at left-back.
“You look at Bailey, Jamal, Jordan Jones who wasn’t with us and George (Saville),” O’Neill said. “This is their first campaign at this level.
“There’s Gavin Whyte, Shayne Lavery – they’re not going to come in and be able to play at this level immediately, it takes time, so there are positives.
“I’m disappointed at the minute, and a lot of the players are disappointed, but I’m very proud of what they gave and when I look back at the game I’ll probably be more positive than at this moment in time.”
Like Northern Ireland, this Germany squad is one in transition with only two players – Toni Kroos and Joshua Kimmich – veterans of the side that won 3-1 at Windsor Park two years ago.
“I think this German team is in its infancy but it has the potential to achieve great things,” O’Neill said.
“I think sometimes in football you can overreact to a bad result and there was an overreaction to the loss to Holland on Friday.
“Come Euro 2020, I anticipate seeing Germany there and I think they will be strong.”