World Cup: Michael O'Neill proud of Northern Ireland after holding Portugal

Last Updated: 17/10/12 7:58am

Michael O'Neill: Rates Northern Ireland's performance among their most spirited

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill believes his team's heroic 1-1 draw at World Cup qualifying opponents Portugal ranks alongside some of the nation's most spirited performances.

Niall McGinn stunned the Portuguese, who are currently ranked third in the world, by clipping the visitors into a shock first-half lead in Porto.

The Irish produced a dogged defensive display to withstand heavy pressure as the home side laid siege on their goal.

But their resistance was finally broken when Helder Postiga slammed in a late equaliser from close range.

On how the performance ranks alongside spirited Northern Ireland displays of the past, O'Neill told Sky Sports: "It's up there. This is as difficult a place to come, certainly in Europe, against a world class team."

"All credit goes to the players. They were magnificent. Their work rate, desire, the way they worked for each other - you cannot ask for more than that."

Michael O'Neill

He added: "All credit goes to the players. They were magnificent. Their work rate, desire, the way they worked for each other - you cannot ask for more than that.

"It was very harsh to lose a goal at the end. Of course, we had to weather severe pressure but at times I thought we passed the ball well, scored a fantastic goal and we're coming out disappointed with a draw.

"The shape of the team was excellent, the work rate, the way they went about the game, was fantastic.

"To go ahead and stifle Portugal was fantastic. I'm disappointed for the players because they deserved a wee bit more than a draw from the game."

Now O'Neill believes the future is bright for his young team, which is ranked 117th in the world, after they spoiled Portugal skipper Cristiano Ronaldo's party on his 100th cap for his country.

O'Neill credits players

"They have to take confidence and belief from what they did tonight," he added. "Their togetherness and spirit has been unquestionable. At times it has been questioned, but certainly tonight they answered that.

"There is more in this team, because we were down a few bodies.

"We've got younger players coming into the team all the time. If they can continue to improve and grow and obviously have more performances like tonight, then if you have that spirit you will always get something in football."