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Craigan encouraged by youngsters
Veteran Northern Ireland defender Stephen Craigan believes the national team have laid down some important long-term foundations by bringing a young and inexperienced squad on tour to the Americas.
Nigel Worthington's side lost 2-0 to Turkey on Wednesday night through second-half goals from substitutes Sercan Yildirim and Semih Senturk in 93-degree heat in Connecticut. Yet while Northern Ireland's captain for the tour was disappointed with the way the game turned on Turkey's 48th minute goal from Yildirim, the 34-year-old saw enough from a side with an average age of 23 and featuring five debutants in the starting line-up to think that the team has a bright future.
"Nigel's trying to get three or four players coming through, not just for this (Euro 2012 qualifying) campaign but for the future and I think it was a great experience for them," said Craigan - one of only three over-25s in the sqaud. " I was delighted to play my part."
He added: "We spoke at half time about not throwing away what we'd done in the first half. But suddenly they get a goal and it changes the context of the game.
"They then make three or four substitutions which perks them up because they're bringing on experienced players of 28, 29 and we're bringing on 17 or 18 year-old kids. But I think we're onto something for the long-term."
Craigan paid tribute to the preparation set out by Worthington and his assistant Glynn Snodin and implemented in a 48-hour period since arriving in the United States on Sunday night.
"We've had two days to prepare and the way Nigel and Glynn have organised us, you could see we knew what we were doing.
"That doesn't come by chance. We were trying to keep our shape and stay organised and when it did fall off we fell by the wayside. But the work we've done in the last two days definitely showed in parts of that game."
The difference between the two sides, Worthington said, had been in the depths of the squads at his and Guus Hiddink's disposal.
"I think if you look at it we've brought 17 players out here and it's a very mixed group of seasoned professionals, Irish League players and some youngsters. Look at the Turkey group and they've brought about 34 to 40 players with great experience if you look at the clubs they're at around Europe."
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