Northern Ireland are set to get their first ever major international tournament underway when they face dark horses Norway in their Euro 2022 opener on Thursday.
Kenny Shiels side have made the short hop across the Irish Sea and will be hoping to give a good account of themselves in a group that also includes hosts England and Austria. The Green and White Army will have the benefit of being settled in Southampton, with all three of their matches being played at St Mary’s Stadium.
Northern Ireland face a tough opening test against the Norwegians, who will be relying on the firepower of Ada Hegerberg and Caroline Graham Hansen.
Here’s everything you need to know about the clash…
When is kick-off? Thursday 7 July, 20:00 (BST)
Where is the match being played? St Mary’s Stadium, Southampton
TV channel/live stream? BBC One (UK)
What time does coverage start? 19:30 (BST)
The huge news pre-tournament was that talismanic striker Ada Hegerberg has been included in the squad having made a comeback after a five-year absence from the international setup.
Hegerberg is joined in the squad by seven WSL players, including Chelsea pair Guro Reiten and captain Maren Mjelde, and Man Utd duo Maria Thorisdottir and Vilde Boe Risa.
Head coach Martin Sjogren currently has a fully fit roster to pick from heading into the tournament opener.
Captain Marissa Callaghan has been included in Northern Ireland’s final Euro 2022 squad despite concerns over her fitness. The midfielder was absent for her country’s final warm-up match against Belgium two weeks ago.
Shiels has also taken a risk on veteran defender Ashley Hutton, who is recovering from knee surgery.
Liverpool midfielder Rachel Furness will likely be key to Northern Ireland’s hopes of progressing to the quarter-finals.
Norway: (4-4-2) Pettersen; Sønstevold, Mjelde, Thorisdottir, Blakstad; Eikeland, Maanum, Engen, Reiten; Graham Hansen, Hegerberg
Northern Ireland: (5-4-1) Burns; Magee, Nelson, McFadden, Burrows, Vance; Magill, Furness, Caldwell, K. McGuinness; Wade
Recent results suggest Northern Ireland’s major tournament debut will not be a pleasant experience…
Norway beat their opponents on Thursday 6-0 home and away in qualifying for the tournament back in 2019 – and that was without the deadly Hegerberg.
The Green and White Army – the lowest ranked side at Euro 2022 – will hope to give a much better account of themselves and should be backed by decent support in Southampton, but expect Norway’s attacking quality to still shine through.
Score prediction: Norway 4-0 Northern Ireland