Belfast Telegraph

UK Website Of The Year

Northern Ireland to play Slovenia in Euro 2016 warm-up

Published 23/12/2015

High jump: Manager Michael O’Neill is thrown into the air by his Northern Ireland players after Euro 2016 qualification was secured
High jump: Manager Michael O’Neill is thrown into the air by his Northern Ireland players after Euro 2016 qualification was secured
On the mic: Michael O’Neill takes his time to thank everyone at the SPOTY awards as an anxious Gary Lineker looks on
Michael O’Neill celebrates
Michael O'Neill
Steve Davis of Northern Ireland celebrates after scoring his side's third goal against Greece

The IFA has confirmed Northern Ireland will play Slovenia in a pre-Euro 2016 warm-up match.

The international friendly will be staged at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park, Belfast, on Monday March 28, kick-off 7.45pm.

The Vauxhall International Challenge Match is set to be the second of two games towards the end of March which will help the Northern Ireland team build towards the European Championship finals in France next June.

Read more: Northern Ireland set to play Slovenians in Euro warm-up

Slovenia, who lost to Ukraine in the play-offs for the Euro 2016 finals after finishing third behind England and Switzerland in their qualifying group, will provide a stern test, according to Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill.

He said: “Slovenia are an excellent choice for us. They played Ukraine in the play-offs and while they lost 2-0 in Ukraine they drew 1-1 with them at home and played well. They are a good side.”

Read more: 'Euro trip does not make me a legend'

The Slovenian team has a global reach, with some of their players plying their trade as far afield as Japan.

Goalkeeper Samir Handanovic (Inter Milan, Italy), defenders Bojan Jokic (Villareal, Spain) and Bostjan Cesar (Chievo, Italy) plus midfielders Valter Birsa (Chievo) and Andraz Kirm (Omonia, Cyprus) all have extensive international experience, with an average of 78 caps between them.

Read more: O'Neill: I'll sign four-year IFA deal - but consider club offers

And Milivoje Novakovic, who now plays for Nagoya Grampus in Japan but starred for many years in Germany’s Bundesliga with 1FC Koln, has weighed in with an impressive 31 goals in 72 appearances for Slovenia.

Their squad also features two other players who are regulars in Italy’s Serie A, Josep Illicic of Fiorentina and Jasmin Kurtic of Atalanta, plus Kevin Kampl from top German side Bayer Leverkusen and Rene Krhin, who plays for Granada in Spain’s La Liga.

Read more: Laughing Lafferty announces 'retirement' ahead of Euros in joke qualifying campaign review

Northern Ireland last played Slovenia in the Euro 2012 qualifying campaign. Northern Ireland won 1-0 in Slovenia in September 2010 thanks to a Corry Evans goal and then drew 0-0 with them the following March at Windsor Park.

Ticket details for the Slovenia fixture – and details of the first game that month – will be announced in the coming weeks.

Online Editors

Your Comments

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting? customercare@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

Read More