Michael O'Neill: NI boss says players did all he asked in win over Belarus
Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill said his players answered his call "not to accept nil-nil" after they grabbed a vital late win over Belarus.
Paddy McNair's 86th-minute strike - his first international goal - maintained NI's 100% record at the start of their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign.
The victory in Borisov made it four wins out of four for O'Neill's men and they remain top of Group C.
"There's so much in this squad to be positive about," said O'Neill.
"For them to be here on 11 June - over a month after the end of their season - and to have given us as much as they have is fantastic.
"We were asking so much of them - they were playing at almost midnight in challenging conditions that were very humid. They had a lot to deal with and they dealt with everything.
"I felt we had to take the initiative to go and win the game and that we did that in the second half when we created a lot more chances.
"I said to the players at half-time not to accept a nil-nil draw and they didn't. These are the double headers that we might have dropped points in previously, but we haven't done that."
O'Neill spoke before the game about the contribution the young players in his squad are making and he was full of praise for them again - reserving particular praise for goalscorer McNair.
"I'm delighted for Paddy as it was a fantastic goal. He has been a big player for us in all of our last four games and he showed that again," O'Neill continued.
"What we are seeing with these young players is that they are coming in and playing in big games and making major contributions.
"I thought Lewis, Jones, McNair and the young keeper Bailey were great, while the two centre-backs and Davis were fantastic as always."
O'Neill also pointed out that former skipper Aaron Hughes took time in the dressing room after the match to remind the squad how good he believes they are.
"Aaron said a nice few words in there, saying that this is the best squad that he has been involved in, which is testament to him and to the players," O'Neill added.
Northern Ireland now face double headers against Germany, who are three points behind them in second with a game in hand, and the Netherlands, who are nine points behind the leaders having played two games less.
O'Neill is fully aware of how difficult those games will be, but insisted his side are capable of getting results against the European heavyweights.
"The next test for the players will be when they have to play these big nations, but we'll be fine for the big games _ I've no concerns about that," said O'Neill.
"We have to believe that we can get results, especially in Belfast, but we have also proved in the past that we will not be shown up away from home.
"We have great athleticism in this team and a strength in depth which will be vitally important when we come to play Germany and the Netherlands."