Since his debut in 2020, Ballard has consistently been one of Northern Ireland’s standout performers during a challenging period for the nation.
Leading up to Saturday’s game, O’Neill’s team had suffered five consecutive losses. However, that losing streak came to an end as Paul Smyth and Josh Magennis quickly found the net, with substitute Conor McMenamin adding to the score in the later stages.
“We aimed to deliver a strong performance and score multiple goals in front of our supporters,” said Ballard, who is set to play a pivotal role in the upcoming Group H match against Slovenia tomorrow.
The early goals helped ease any anxiety, allowing them to secure victory early on and enabling them to showcase some attractive football.
The focus is on building confidence in the attacking areas. The team possesses talented players in the final third, and what they need is confidence, improved chemistry among the players, and self-belief. This win is expected to contribute positively to that process.
Being a small nation, Northern Ireland often assumes the role of the underdog. When that dynamic is reversed, there can be a different feeling, and perhaps a touch of nervousness. Nevertheless, the early goals provided the necessary boost to secure a convincing victory.