Northern Ireland at the Euros: How Far Can They Get?

It would be fair to say that the country of Northern Ireland caused quite a stir when they qualified for the Euro 2016 by winning their group ahead of some fairly better known sides such as Greece, Finland, and Hungary. Would you bet on Northern Ireland in the Euros?

Their manager Michael O’Neill has raised eyebrows after unifying his boys in an effort to qualify for their first major tournament since the 1986 FIFA World Cup, and it’s safe to say that the players’ effort has come to good use.

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O’Neill has chosen, like many of his peers, to submit a provisional squad consisting of more players than the 23 he can take to France. The larger pool of 28 players that the boss has selected is evidence of the growth that football in Northern Ireland is going through at the moment.

West Brom midfielder Chris Brunt is the only notable absentee as he is ruled out due to a knee injury. Other than Brunt, the Green and White Army’s provisional squad contains the likes of in-form Wigan Athletic striker Will Grigg and Southampton midfielder, Sean Davis. Davis is all set to lead his country at the Euros in France and I’m sure he will be eager to lead his team as far as possible in what should be an intensely competitive tournament.

Northern Ireland’s talismanic defensive trio of Aaron Hughes, Chris Baird and Gareth McAuley have all been (unsurprisingly) selected. Hughes, the country’s most capped outfield player, should play a big part in the competition and so should West Brom man McAuley. Fellow defenders Paddy McNair and Craig Cathcart are also highly rated individuals and it looks as if Michael O’Neill may well have a tough time picking his best defensive line-up.

n irelandIn the attacking front, Wigan Athletic hotshot Will Grigg appears to be their most potent attacking force as the 24-year-old has scored a whopping 28 goals in all competitions this season. His fellow Championship compatriot Conor Washington is another lethal striker to bank on. The Queens Park Rangers forward has a great tally of 15 goals to his name over the course of the past season. Premiership striking duo Josh Magennis and Liam Boyce are also in the squad with a total of 32 goals scored between them.

Overall, Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill has a plethora of talent to choose from and the toughest decision right now will be picking out five players to leave out ahead of the squad submission deadline on the 31st of May.

The Green and White Army will head into the competition with no pressure of expectation weighing them down. Their fellow Group C rivals include Germany, Poland and Ukraine and pundits believe that it is difficult to see them secure a place other than fourth.

Regardless of what the soothsayers may say, Northern Ireland head into their first ever participation at the Euros with their heads up and chests out and nothing to hold them back and it should be a treat watching them play on the big stage.