Steve Beaglehole has more or less written off qualification for the 2011 Uefa under-21 Championships - but he is full of hope that Northern Ireland will be in the finals for the first time in 2013.
Beaglehole has history in mind, encouraged by the team’s performance in Friday night’s 1-1 draw with Germany.
That was the first point that Northern Ireland have collected in four games of the series after two defeats to Iceland and an away loss to the Czech Republic, who will provide the opposition at the Ballymena Showgrounds tonight.
“Friday night was a big high for me because we played very well against a very good Germany team,” said Beaglehole.
“It was a game we could have won, we deserved at least a draw out of it and a lot of praise has to go to the players for the effort they put in.
“We’re a very young team and what is encouraging is that six members of the 18 that played the other night are eligible for the next three years.
“We have Lee Hodson, Oliver Norwood and Corry Evans who are still eligible for the under-19s and we’re looking at the next three years with a lot of positivity.
“The 6-2 defeat against Iceland a couple of months ago was a low, but we’re turned that around, we’ve gone with some younger players and it is working for us.”
The Czechs won the last meeting 2-0 with the goals coming in the last 17 minutes and they lead the way with four wins from as many games.
It shouldn’t be that way though, according to Beaglehole.
“We could have beaten the Czechs out there and then when we played Iceland we had 12 efforts on goal in the first-half, they had four and were 4-0 up at half-time. It was a freak result,” said Beaglehole.
“I’m looking at it as short term pain for long term gain though.
“We’re not going to qualify this time, but we’ll be in a good position to have a really good go at it next time around.
“After this game we have San Marino twice and then the away game in Germany and by then we’ll be in much better shape as these young lads gain in experience at international level.”
Beaglehole isn’t expected to make many changes to the team that drew with the Germans, with Manchester United’s Joe Dudgeon the only one to drop out after picking up a hamstring injury in the first-half of that game.
Sourced from: The Belfast TelegraphReuse content