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Euro 2016 draw: Northern Ireland to face reigning world champions Germany

Michael O’Neill’s side have also been paired with Poland and Ukraine at next summer’s finals.

By Adrian Rutherford, in Paris

Michael O’Neill tonight refused to write off Northern Ireland’s Euro 2016 dreams after seeing his side handed a nightmare draw.

They will face reigning world champions Germany, plus a testing clash with Poland.

Ukraine complete what on paper looks a daunting Group C.

But speaking after the draw, O’Neill backed his side to cause a surprise or two.

“It’s a tough group, but we’ll prepare right,” he told the Belfast Telegraph.

“We won our [qualifying] group, it was a difficult group, and we got consistency over the whole campaign.

“We haven’t got the biggest pool of players, we need to make sure our big players are fit.

“If they are then I’m sure we can leave our mark on the tournament.”

Northern Ireland open their campaign against the Poles in Nice on Sunday, June 12.

Then then play Ukraine in Lyon the following Thursday.

The group ends with the biggest test of all - Germany in Paris on Tuesday, June 21.

The Germans are reigning world champions, having beaten Argentina to lift the World Cup in Brazil last summer.

Northern Ireland were bottom seeds and so were always going to get a tough draw.

It is perhaps even tougher than most hoped for or expected.

Poland were arguably the toughest team they could have pulled from the pot of third seeds.

But having already defied the odds to reach Euro 2016, who would bet against O’Neill’s side doing it again?

Nor will the tough draw stop thousands of fans making the journey to France for what promises to be one of the big stories of 2016.

The good news is that Lyon (59,000 capacity) and Paris (48,000 capacity) are two of the biggest venues, meaning more tickets should be available for fans.

After tonight, the focus will turn to tickets.

Some were released earlier this summer, with the bulk set to go on sale from Monday.

Northern Ireland fans will be able to apply for two tickets each.

Supporters' loyalty will be rewarded with those who regularly attended games during the Euro qualifying campaign to be given priority.

The decision follows discussions between the Irish FA and Uefa.

Meanwhile, the Republic of Ireland will face Belgium, Sweden and Italy in Group E.

Boss Martin O’Neill said he believed it was the toughest of all six groups.

Full schedule for Northern Ireland

  • Northern Ireland v Poland in Nice on Sunday June 12 (5pm)
     
  • Northern Ireland v Ukraine in Lyon on Thursday June 16 (5pm)
     
  • Northern Ireland v Germany in Paris on Tuesday June 21 (5pm)

Northern Ireland were bottom seeds and so were always going to get a tough draw.

But it is perhaps tougher than most hoped for or expected.

Are tickets still on sale?

There are some tickets on sale during December and January, but only if you are a member of an official supporters' group - those tickets, for specific group games, will be on sale from 14 December.

The next time tickets are on sale to the general public will be next March and April, when purchased tickets that are no longer wanted will be resold on the Uefa website.

Visit the Euro 2016 ticketing website for more information and to apply.

The tournament begins on 10 June with the Final of 10 July.

Euro 2016 facts

  • The draw will be hosted by former EURO winners Ruud Gullit (Netherlands, 1988) and Bixente Lizarazu (France, 2000); Oliver Bierhoff (Germany, 1996), Angelos Charisteas (Greece, 2004), Antonín Panenka (Czechoslovakia, 1976), David Trezeguet (France, 2000) and Vicente del Bosque (Spain coach, 2012) are also involved.
     
  • England won every qualifier, only the sixth time this has been achieved. Their predecessors were France (1992 and 2004), the Czech Republic (2000), Spain and Germany (2012).
     
  • Three teams have held the UEFA European Championship and FIFA World Cup titles at the same time: West Germany (EURO 1972, World Cup 1974), France (World Cup 1998, EURO 2000) and Spain (EURO 2008, World Cup 2010). Spain's EURO 2012 victory made them the first country to win three major tournaments in a row; West Germany were within a shoot-out of accomplishing the same feat before their 1976 loss to Czechoslovakia.
     
  • Six players have appeared in four final tournaments: Lothar Matthäus, Peter Schmeichel, Alessandro Del Piero, Edwin van der Sar, Lilian Thuram and Olof Mellberg.
     
  • Eight players have scored a EURO finals hat-trick, most recently Spain's David Villa against Russia at UEFA EURO 2008.
     
  • Albania, Iceland, Northern Ireland and Wales are all in the tournament for the first time.
     
  • Hosts France are the only nation apart from Germany and Spain (both three times) to have won the UEFA European Championship more than once.
     
  • Defeat in Slovakia in October 2014 ended Spain's 36-match, eight-year unbeaten run in UEFA EURO and World Cup qualifying fixtures stretching back to a 2-0 reverse in Sweden on 7 October 2006.
     
  • Cristiano Ronaldo has 26 EURO goals, qualifying included – more than any other player.
     
  • Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon became the first player to make 50 UEFA European Championship appearances during qualifying.

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