EURO 2016: Kyle Lafferty confident Northern Ireland can bounce back against Ukraine

Kyle Lafferty in action against Poland on Sunday
Kyle Lafferty in action against Poland on Sunday

Kyle Lafferty admits Northern Ireland’s jaded performance against Poland on Sunday was not a true reflection of the side that topped their qualifying group.

Michael O’Neill’s men never got out of the traps as they fell to a 1-0 defeat in Nice.

It leaves Northern Ireland with a mountain to climb if they are to progress to the knockout stages of Euro 2016.

They face Ukraine in Lyon on Thursday before completing their Group F fixtures against Germany in Paris next Tuesday.

O’Neill’s men arrived in France on the back of a record-breaking dozen match unbeaten run and having become the first team drawn from pot five to top their qualifying group.

Yet Poland’s dominance over them left Lafferty delivering a damning assessment of the country’s first finals fixture since the 1986 World Cup.

“We were a shadow of the team that got us here,” he declared.

“It’s okay talking about nerves but the fight and the determination were not there either. We just got hit by a very good Poland side and we didn’t know what to do.

“Whenever we’ve faced teams like that before we could take control of it, take the game by the scruff of the neck and create chances but we didn’t do that against Poland, we pretty much froze on the spot.”

Based on Ukraine’s performance against Germany in their opening fixture, things will not get much easier.

Although they were beaten 2-0, they went toe-to-toe with the World Cup holders for much of the night and possess two of the continent’s most dangerous playmakers in Yevhen Konoplyanka and Andriy Yarmolenko.

Asked if a repeat of the Poland showing would seal their exit, Lafferty replied: “Yes, I think so.

“We can’t expect to produce a performance like we did and get anything from the game.

“We’re not in the qualifiers any more where you might come up against some of the minnows, we’re playing against the best 24 teams in Europe and if you don’t turn up you’re getting punished.”