McAuley: Ukraine win proves our critics wrong

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The West Brom defender insists he and his Northern Ireland team-mates “had a point to prove” after few gave them a chance of picking up a point from a tough Euro 2016 group

Gareth McAuley believes Northern Ireland have proved their critics wrong by beating Ukraine 2-0 at Euro 2016 on Thursday.

McAuley broke the deadlock with a second-half header before substitute Niall McGinn wrapped up the Green and White Army's maiden win at a European Championship finals with an injury-time strike.

Joined by Germany and Poland in Group C, McAuley insists few gave Northern Ireland a chance of picking up a point in France this summer and says he is delighted they have been able to prove a point.

"We had a point to prove to ourselves," McAuley told ITV.

"It's pleasing. We've a tough game ahead but we are delighted. Lots of people were saying we wouldn't get a point.

"We thought we let ourselves down with the intensity we played at [against Poland]. We just didn't get that right. We weren't at it against Poland, not to your standards. 

"The lads will take confidence from this because we had been written off."

McAuley's strike which got Michael O'Neill's men up and running against Ukraine was Northern Ireland's first strike at the Euros for 30 years and the defender says it was “special” to be the man to end his country's long wait for a goal at a showpiece competition.

"It's special. It will sink in over the next few days," he said of the goal.

"But it was the team performance that was pleasing, the reaction after getting beaten by Poland and now we’ve got a tough game to look forward to now.

"We've given ourselves something to play for and that's what we wanted."