Tuesday 6 December 2016

Euro 2016 team-by-team guide: Everything you need to know about Northern Ireland

Published 09/05/2016 | 17:48

Northern Ireland players celebrate qualification for Euro 2016
Northern Ireland players celebrate qualification for Euro 2016

Kevin Palmer gives us the lowdown on the Northern Ireland.

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NOTHERN IRELAND

Odds: 500/1

Group C fixtures

  • June 12th: Poland in Nice
  • June 16th: Ukriane in Lyon
  • June 21st: Germany in Paris

COACH: Michael O’Neill

O’Neill and his team pulled off a minor miracle to secure automatic qualification for Euro 2016, with his task of ensuring his team shine at the final in France this summer arguably even more challenging.

Lacking performers who are making their mark in Europe’s top leagues, O’Neill has drained the best out of the players at his disposal, with the contract extension he was handed for his efforts well deserved.

STAR MAN: Kyle Lafferty (Norwich)

The leading scorer in Euro 2016 qualifying Group F with seven goals, this powerhouse striker continued to come up with the goods when Northern Ireland were in need of a goal.

His club season has been less successful, with his failure to break into the Norwich side leading to a couple of loan spells as he aimed to stay sharp ahead of the Euro 2016 finals.

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LOOK OUT FOR: Steven Davis (Southampton)

A leader of the Northern Ireland side, he has a big role to play as he tries to drag his team to more improbable glory this summer.

Not always a first choice starter for Southampton this season, at least Davis is a regular part of a Premier League set-up and that is a rarity among the Northern Ireland squad. He has also played for Aston Villa, Fulham and Rangers.

 

WILD CARD: Jamie Ward (Nottingham Forest)

A winger who can also be deployed in a central striking role, Ward has been a regular in the line-up for Championship side Forest this season.

Previously with Aston Villa, Torquay, Chesterfield, Sheffield United and Derby, Ward slips neatly into the journeyman professional category. Now he gets his chance to confirm he deserves a more lofty status as he makes his debut in a major international tournament.

VERDICT: It is hard to come up with an argument for Northern Ireland to get through their group at Euro 2016.

A weak qualifying pool opened the door for O’Neill’s side to qualify their nation for a first major tournament since 1990 and it will need the likes of Jonny Evans (West Brom), Davis and Lafferty to shine. Sadly, an early exit seems inevitable.

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