Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill believes his side’s two-goal victory over Denmark will give his inexperienced squad ‘self-belief’ they can compete at the top level.
Goals from Isaac Price and Dion Charles saw O’Neill’s side record a deserved victory over the group leaders, who reached the semi-finals of the European Championships two years ago.
It signed off a hugely disappointing campaign for Northern Ireland, who had lost all seven of their group matches against teams other than San Marino prior to the win in Belfast.
“We had four of our Under-21 players starting and a lot of players in single caps,” O’Neill said after the game.
“Eoin Toal and Ciaron Brown are both playing their football in League One, it is a massive step to play against European calibre players from the top leagues.
“This helps with all of those player’s self-belief that they can perform at this level, but you can only do that in a compact team and I think we were that tonight.
“We will always need our experienced players and hopefully we can get some of those players back but what these players need is time and positive experiences.
“If you are playing international football without believing that you belong there and you can win there it is difficult, but hopefully those players believe that now.”
Bolton striker Charles secured the win with his finish from Conor McMenamin’s delivery, having hit the post early in the game.
The Bolton Wanderers striker hit the post early on, but said he knew with hard work, he would get another chance.
“That first chance probably came a bit too soon in the game,” said Charles.
“I knew if I kept getting in the right positions then I’d get another opportunity. Luckily I was there at the end.
“We are a very young squad and inexperienced, but that gives us a lot of hope moving forward, into the next campaign.
“Now it’s up to us to give those standards every single day we are on the training pitch and out there at Windsor.
“It’s about breeding that winning mentality and hopefully this is just the start.”
Standard Liege midfielder Price said “there isn’t any feeling like scoring in football” after his strike gave Northern Ireland the lead, sparking wild celebrations from the 20-year-old.
“It’s something for the fans as well because it will be frustrating for them when they are travelling away and watching us and we’re not getting the results that we should be getting,” Price said. “It just shows that we are capable of it.”