The Northern Ireland national football team haven’t appeared at a major championship for nearly 30 years. Their last appearance at an International competition came at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, where they were knocked out at the first round. A win tonight against Greece will see them qualify for the European Championships in France in the summer.
If they do confirm their place at the Euro’s it will be their first appearance in a European Championships. Their qualification group doesn’t contain any of Europe’s superpowers but at the start of the campaign. Micheal O’Neill’s team weren’t given a chance of qualifying despite the competition being expanded. Allowing two or three teams to qualify from one group.
This campaign has seen Irish pick up wins on the road against Hungary and Greece. As stated before they not superpowers of the game, but still very difficult places to go. Northern Ireland currently sit top of group f, three points clear of Romania. They will be desperate to get the win tonight that will see them qualify. Otherwise they may to get a result away to Finland in the final game depending on Romania’s result against Finland tonight.
Key Men To Northern Ireland Success
Northern Ireland have a strong team ethic but they have several key performers in their campaign to qualify for the European Championships. Who are they?
Kyle Lafferty is the top-scorer for Northern Ireland in this campaign. Scoring seven goals in his eight appearances. Lafferty has scored 50% of the goals that the Irish have managed in this campaign. His last minute strike last time out against Hungary earned ten-man Ireland a crucial draw.
Lafferty currently plays his club football for Premier League side Norwich City, having previously played for Burnley and Rangers. He is yet to make a start for Norwich in the Premier League this season and will be hoping his form for Ireland will earn him a run in the Norwich first team. Lafferty will be missing from tonight’s game against Greece, following an unfortunate booking last time out against Hungary.
As well as being an integral member of the Northern Ireland defence that has conceded only six goals in their eight games so far. McAuley has also had a impact at the opposite ending of pitch. Bagging himself three goals. Meaning between Lafferty and McAuley they have scored ten of the fourteen goals that Northern Ireland have scored in this campaign.
At 35 years of age, McAuley is a seasoned campaigner and has been a fixture in the Irish squad for the last ten years, having made his debut in the summer of 2005. He began his career playing in the League of Ireland before moving to Lincoln City in 2004. He has been a regular feature for West Brom in the Premier League for the last four seasons.