Football: Failure forces Hamilton to reflect on future

Portugal 1 Northern Ireland 0
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The Independent Online
After watching his side suffer another defeat to finish fifth out of six in Group Nine, Bryan Hamilton said he would only accept a new contract if it was right for Northern Ireland. The manager's present deal runs out next summer and he is to open talks with the Irish Football Association about reaching a new agreement.

But Hamilton, who took over from Billy Bingham in February 1994, stressed he would put the needs of the team before his own. "I must weigh up and assess whether I can affect the progress of Northern Ireland football, which is of the utmost importance to me," he said. "I am sure whatever happens it will be in Northern Ireland's best interests. That must be the overriding concern - not Bryan Hamilton.

"Whatever happens, it must be seen that Northern Ireland are the people winning and that the team will be taken further forward. At this moment I've just finished the World Cup campaign and I'm disappointed we didn't qualify. I'll reflect on that, but there are no complications or worries."

Sergio Conceicao gave Portugal victory with the only goal of the game after 17 minutes in Benfica's Stadium of Light, but it was too little too late to earn them World Cup qualification. Ukraine took the runners- up position with a 2-0 victory over Armenia in Yerevan.

Northern Ireland never posed a serious threat and would have lost more convincingly had Fernando Costa not put a spot- kick wide after 61 minutes.

"I think we've done well over the four years," Hamilton said. "We haven't qualified but then we were coming from a long way back and had to develop our young players."

Goal: Conceicao (17) 1-0.

PORTUGAL: Silvino (Salgueiros); Santos (Porto), Helder (Deportivo La Coruna), Couto (Barcelona), Dimas (Juventus), Sousa (Borussia Dortmund), Oceano (Sporting Lisbon), Conceicao (Porto), Figo (Barcelona), Pinto (Benfica), Pauleta (Salamanca). Substitutes: Cadete (Celta Vigo) for Pauleta, 62; Dani (Ajax) for Conceicao, 76.

NORTHERN IRELAND: Fettis (Blackburn Rovers); Nolan (Sheffield Wednesday), Morrow (QPR), Taggart (Bolton Wanderers), Hill (IFK Trelleborg), Lennon (Leicester City), Lomas (West Ham United), Horlock (Manchester City), Magilton (Sheffield Wednesday), C Hughes (Wimbledon), Dowie (West Ham United). Substitutes: McCarthy (Birmingham City) for Lennon, 75; McMahon (Stoke City) for Hill, 75.

Referee: P Mikkelsen (Denmark).

Bookings: Portugal: Santos.

Man of the match: Sousa.

Attendance: 31,847.