Euro 2016: Mourning Northern Ireland battle for survival as they face Ukraine

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Lyon, June 15: Northern Ireland face Ukraine in Lyon on Thursday (June 16) with both sides needing a win to keep their Euro 2016 knockout stage dreams alive while the Irish are mourning the death of a young fan.

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Irish fans plan a round of applause at the Stade de Lyon in the 24th-minute of the Group C clash to pay their respects to Darren Rodgers.

Euro 2016: Mourning Northern Ireland battle for survival as they face Ukraine

The 24-year-old from Ballymena died in the early hours of Monday morning in Nice after falling from a restaurant balcony after his team's 1-0 defeat to Poland. Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill described Rodgers' death as "devastating".

"There was a sense of disappointment at losing the game, we were very tired and then got up in the morning to learn of the situation and nature of the tragedy," said O'Neill.

"The players were devastated by the news and it puts into perspective the nature of football."

Having seen their 12-match unbeaten run ended by Poland, Northern Ireland defender Jonny Evans says his side must be bold against Ukraine.

"To give ourselves the best chance (to progress) we are going to have to go out and win. It makes it exciting because Ukraine are in the same position," said the former Manchester United defender.

"You'll see a lot more aggression, a lot more pressing on the opposition, giving them less time on the ball.

"That's something we've been good at in the past and we want to get back doing that."

With world champions Germany next up for Northern Ireland in their final group game, Evans acknowledges the Ukraine game is crucial to their chances of reaching the knock-out phase.

Goalkeeper Michael McGovern, who impressed in Sunday's defeat when Arkadiusz Milik's goal sealed a 1-0 result, is favourite to start between the posts ahead of 38-year-old veteran Roy Carroll.

Ukraine have never lost to yet to Northern Ireland, with two wins and two draws in previous meetings.

AFP

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