EURO 2016: SPOTLIGHT ON NORTHERN IRELAND

User Rating: 0 / 5

Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive
 

One of the biggest surprise packages of the qualifiers. Although Northern Ireland's qualifying group was one of the weakest, it doesn't overshadow their achievement one bit. Winning a qualifying group, thus confirming their spot in France this summer, was a feat nobody expected of them.

These are the first Euro finals for the Northern Irish, and only the second major tournament for them - their first was the World Cup of 1986. They've shown that they have what it takes to inflict damage to superior footballing countries with their disciplined game. Northern Ireland could be this year's "Costa Rica".

Northern Ireland's preliminary squad for the Euros contains 28 players, all of which play in the British Isles apart from experienced defender Aaron Hughes, who plies his trade in Australia. The squad doesn't have many recognizable names, although we want to highlight striker Kyle Lafferty, who scored seven goals in the qualifiers.

ASSESSMENT & PREVIEW

Northern Ireland are a tough side with a capital T. They aren't blessed with star names or quality, but their game plan and unity mean they are definitely a tough nut to crack. With a lot of players from the English lower leagues, Northern Ireland's fighting spirit cannot be questioned. They are more than capable of causing an upset.

Skillful passing and bags of tricks can't be expected of Northern Ireland at Euro 2016. The team went through the qualifiers using a 4-2-3-1 system, but in the last couple of friendlies Michael O'Neill has moved to control the middle of the park with a 3-5-2 formation. However, this won't change the teams' tactics much, as the Northern Irish will still continue to rely on counter-attacks that finish in a goal-scoring opportunity.

The easy qualifying group was a good platform for Northern Ireland to reach the finals, but teams like Germany, Poland and Ukraine will control most of the possession against them in France. Their counter-attacks need to be lethal, as they won't get many scoring chances against such superior oppositions. Despite their impressive run in the qualifiers Northern Ireland are the underdogs of Group C.

Assessment: 4th in Group C

Betting Tip: Will finish last in their group 4/10 Betsafe

It promises to be yet another epic battle for the title of European Champions! Check out the favourites and best odds from this link!

NORTHERN IRELAND'S MOST LIKELY STARTING ELEVEN 

Goalkeeper: Carroll

Defenders: Cathcart, McAuley, J.Evans

Midfielders: McLaughlin, Norwood, McNair, Davis, Dallas

Forwards: Lafferty, Washington

Key Player: Kyle Lafferty, Birmingham City

Northern Ireland's simple game plan relies a lot on Lafferty's ability to win 1v1's and headers in the opponent's half. The striker fired an impressive seven goals in the qualifiers, finishing fifth out of all the players. His heading ability is also paramount at Northern Ireland's set-pieces. If the Northern Irish are to get anything at Euro 2016, Lafferty needs to be firing on all cylinders.

Who'll win the Golden Boot at Euro 2016? Check out the best odds from this link!

NORTHERN IRELAND'S SQUAD FOR EURO 2016

Goalkeepers:

Roy Carroll (Notts County)

Michael McGovern (Hamilton Academical)

Alan Mannus (St Johnstone)

Defenders:

Aaron Hughes (Melbourne City)

Chris Baird (Derby County)

Gareth McAuley (West Bromwich Albion)

Jonny Evans (West Bromwich Albion)

Craig Cathcart (Watford)

Lee Hodson Milton (Keynes Dons)

Conor McLaughlin (Fleetwood Town)

Luke McCullough (Doncaster Rovers)

Paddy McNair (Manchester United)

Midfielders:

Steven Davis (Southampton)

Niall McGinn (Aberdeen)

Corry Evans (Blackburn Rovers)

Oliver Norwood (Reading)

Shane Ferguson (Millwall)

Stuart Dallas (Leeds United)

Jamie Ward (Nottingham Forest)

Forwards:

Kyle Lafferty (Birmingham City)

Josh Magennis (Kilmarnock)

Will Grigg (Wigan Athletic)

Conor Washington (Queens Park Rangers)

Manager: Michael O'Neill