Departing Northern Ireland manager Nigel Worthington said he was proud of the performance of his young team in Tuesday night's 3-0 defeat by Italy.
"It was a fantastic occasion for the youngsters to play against a team of that quality," said Worthington.
"I am delighted with them, their work-rate was phenomenal. I was very proud of them and hopefully there is a bright future for Northern Ireland.
"We were playing an excellent side and it was a case of damage limitation."
He added: "We had to shape the team cautiously and we knew they were going to have a huge amount of possession.
"The players have been fantastic and it's been an honour to work with them."
The former Norwich City boss, who announced his intention to step down from his position on Monday, was philosophical about his departure.
"I've been in a job that I've enjoyed doing and have been working with good people," said Worthington.
"But you have got to move on and it's time to look forward to a new challenge, if and when that may happen."
Reflecting on the Euro 2012 qualifying campaign, Worthington believes the defeats by Serbia and Estonia last month were crucial.
"We dropped points away to the Faroes, but the home win over the Faroes put us in a very good position," he added.
"We probably needed four points against Serbia and Estonia - we didn't get them and you pay the price."