Northern Irelands young squad have everything to play for Michael ONeill
Michael ONeill believes Northern Ireland still have everything to play for in their bid to reach Euro 2024 even as injuries hit hard during the qualifying campaign.
With a trip to Denmark and a home match against Kazakhstan up next, ONeill has named a 28-man squad that includes five uncapped players and a total of 15 with fewer than 10 caps.
Although Jonny Evans returns from the hamstring injury that prevented him from adding to his 100 caps in March, Steven Davis, Stuart Dallas, Corry Evans, Liam Boyce, Josh Magennis, Conor Washington and Shane Ferguson remain sidelined, forcing ONeill to rely on youth.
When ONeill returned to the Northern Ireland job in December there was an opportunity to capitalise on a favourable qualifying draw, and although that remains possible, the absence of his most experienced players is making it a much tougher ask.
Northern Ireland began with a 2-0 win in San Marino in their group opener, but a 1-0 home defeat to Finland highlighted the difficulties.
Asked if the job had been harder than envisaged, ONeill said: I suppose it depends on what the expectation is for this campaign going forward as well. I still think we have got everything to play for in this campaign.