Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 27 August 2014

Faroe Islands target Northern Ireland as ticket to historic win

Lars Olsen, head coach of Faroe Islands

Faroe Islands coach Lars Olsen feels his side can shock Northern Ireland once again in the European Championship qualifiers.

While Northern Ireland fans gazed at Sunday's draw wondering how many points they could take from Greece, Hungary, Romania and Finland, the Faroes, ranked 172 in the world, were looking at Michael O'Neill's team as their ticket to a big result.

Given that Northern Ireland lost away to both Luxembourg and Azerbaijan in the 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign, you can see their point.

Then there is the fact that the Faroe Islands have history against Northern Ireland.

In the last Euro qualifiers, the part-timers, then managed by ex-Republic boss Brian Kerr, drew 1-1 at home to Nigel Worthington's team. But for a late equaliser from Kyle Lafferty, the visitors would have suffered a humiliating defeat.

After an encouraging start to the Euro 2012 qualifiers under Worthington, that result undermined Northern Ireland's qualification hopes and the manager's reign. The former Norwich supremo never recovered and was under pressure with the fans from that moment until he resigned.

He wasn't the only Northern Ireland boss to endure an embarrassing draw with the minnows. Billy Bingham was in charge when the Faroes came to Windsor Park in 1991 for a Euro qualifier, just one year after becoming a Uefa member, and managed to leave Belfast with a shock point in their luggage following a 1-1 draw.

In the corresponding fixtures in 1991 and 2010, Northern Ireland won 5-0 and 4-0 respectively, but the two draws are more memorable and much celebrated in the Faroes, who believe they can make it a hat-trick of surprise results in the 2016 Euro campaign.

Speaking about the draw Faroes coach Olsen said: "It could be better and it could be worse – but, given the possible options, I'm well satisfied.

"The three highest seeded teams are all strong, but I see possibilities against Finland and Northern Ireland. We are a small country, and for us it is about improving. We got one point in the last qualifying campaign, and hopefully we will get more this time around."

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