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EURO 2020 Qualifier Preview: Northern Ireland -v- Belarus

Sat, Mar 23 2019

Action from Northern Ireland v Estonia Credit: Clare McCahill (ETPhotos)

NORTHERN IRELAND

It was a Nations League campaign to forget for Northern Ireland last year losing all four matches, but Michael O’Neill’s men have begun their EURO 2020 qualifying campaign well with a 2-0 win over Estonia last Thursday.

Elsewhere in Group C the heavyweights of the Netherlands and Germany face each other in Amsterdam on Sunday and if Northern Ireland are to have any ambitions of qualifying for successive European Championships, they need to get a win in Belfast over Belarus (kick off 7.45pm).

O’Neill’s boys begin their campaign with these two home games but will conclude the qualifiers playing Germany and the Netherlands home and away in the last four games.

The Northern Ireland boss was pleased with his team’s 2-0 win earlier this week and expects something along the same lines in Windsor Park on Sunday evening.

“It will be a similar type of approach tactically,” said O’Neill speaking to IrishFA.com as he looked ahead to the Belarus game after the win earned over Estonia thanks to goals from Niall McGinn and Steven Davis.

“We want to play with the same level of intensity as the game against Estonia if not even more. We need to take more advantage of the possession and the chances in the final third. We should have added to the two goals we had.” 

The home side had 59% possession against Estonia and wracked up 19 attempts at goal with seven hitting the target.

Asked about his opponents Belarus, O’Neill noted that “they had a good Nations League even if it was at League D level. They will take confidence from that. They will have players potentially who can hit us on the break. 

“They had issues in the game against the Netherlands on Thursday and there are areas that we can exploit.” 

BELARUS

Ahead of travelling to Belfast, Belarus began their campaign with a demoralising 4-0 defeat to the Netherlands in Rotterdam but the Belarussians showed in last year’s UEFA Nations League that they are no pushovers.

Manager Igor Kriushenko, who led BATE Borisov to the league title on two occasions, steered his national side to promotion from League D in 2018.

They didn’t concede a goal as they went unbeaten in their six matches topping the group that contained Luxembourg, Moldova and San Marino.

Their only dropped points were two scoreless draws against Moldova but the face stiffer opposition on Sunday when the travel to take on Michael O’Neill’s men in the National Stadium in Windsor Park.

Referee: Pawel Raczkowski (Poland)

MATCH STATS

This is the first competitive matches between the two countries at senior international level. 

Northern Ireland did beat Belarus 3-0 in a Belfast friendly in May 2016 with Kyle Lafferty, Conor Washington and Will Grigg on the scoresheet.

Polish referee Pawel Raczhowski who is in charge in Belfast on Sunday night has officiated six Saudi Professional League matches in the last six months.

BETTING

Northern Ireland 8/13; Draw 12/5; Belarus 9/2.

PREDICTION

2-0 home win

We will bring you all the action from Windsor Park on Sunday evening. Reporter Macdara Ferris, along with photographers Clare McCahill and John-Paul McGinley, will be in Belfast to bring you details of this EURO 2020 qualifer.