Northern Ireland never played at European Championships before, but made World Cup appearances. However, they traveled to the main event in 1982 without their legendary forward George Best, who was already losing his battle to alcohol. The United legend couldn’t reach anything with national team at his best years.
Northern Irish have notable reason for celebration this fall – for the first their national team qualified for the major European tournament in France next summer. Moreover, their ticket the team won after finishing fourth in the group F.
Of course, success wouldn’t be possible without certain set of circumstances. Michael O’Neill were lucky with the draw. Romania, Hungary, Finland, Faroe Islands and Greece, who finished the last – none of the teams were obvious favourite of the group, which each of them were losing points regularly. Green and White Army were the most consistent team in their group, which earned them the first place. They used the chances they have and deserve their place in France.
Head coach Michael O’Neill and his players did a great job, impressing experience sport prediction experts. Northern Ireland were not group underdogs, but no one expected them to use the opportunity and take the first place of the table. The manager had limited resources as the majority of the players are from lower divisions of England. O’Neill found the balance and organized his team, which gave them a chance for the breakthrough.
Players showed their determination and trust in ideas of their coach, following his instructions. Northern Ireland played solid football in all matches and suffered only one defeat, which didn’t shake their positions. O’Neill’s men fought for the goal and it paid off with historical achievement. Kyle Lafferty should be mention for his scoring deed. The striker sits on Norwich’s bench, but scores for his country. Kyle’s seven goals are the half of The Green and White Army netted in 10 matches. Sport analytics service Bet4Rate named Lafferty one of the heroes of European Qualifiers.
There are no players in present team of Northern Ireland, who could be compared to George Best, but we are sure the legend of football would be proud of such notable achievement.