Northern Ireland get unkind set of fixtures

Sun, Dec 02 2018

Nuno Gomes draws out Netherlands during the UEFA Euro 2020 Draw Credit: Photo Brendan Moran/UEFA/Getty Images)

Macdara Ferris reports from the Convention Centre Dublin

Michael O'Neill got what he called a cruel group in the EURO 2020 draw on Sunday morning and when the fixtures were released on Sunday evening it got even worse. 

It is double trouble for Norn Iron as they have to face the Netherlands and Germany in their final four fixtures in the group including a set of back-to-back games in November.

Speaking just after the draw the Northern Ireland manager said he was hoping to avoid playing both of those teams across back-to-back fixtures. 

O’Neill must really feel that his luck was out when he saw that he will conclude the qualifiying group with their last four fixtures coming against what he called “two powerhouses of European football”.

They play Germany in Belfast in early September, with their next game coming in October away to the Dutch. 

However they conclude the group playing at home to the Dutch and away to the Germans across four days in November.

“Hopefully the fixtures are kind so we don’t get a double header with Germany and Holland together,” was O’Neill’s thoughts straight after the draw. 

“You have to put so much into one game and you won’t want to be playing Holland on the back of Germany.” 

O’Neill hoped that it “might work in our favour a little bit” but that really wasn’t the case for his team.

He felt his team were unlucky to end up in that group.

It looked originally like the Republic of Ireland would be in that group but as Amsterdam, Munich and Dublin are host cities that couldn’t be the case with a maximum of two host cities allowed in one group.

Fixtures in full:

21 March Northern Ireland v Estonia

24 March Northern Ireland v Belarus

8 June Estonia v Northern Ireland 

11 June Belarus v Northern Ireland 

09 September Northern Ireland v Germany

10 October Netherlands v Northern Ireland 

16 November Northern Ireland v Netherlands

19 November Germany v Northern Ireland