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NI heroes secure best ever finish at World Cup

By Adam McKendry

Published 15/07/2016

Friendly rivaly: Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland teams prepare to clash at the Homeless World Cup yesterday
Friendly rivaly: Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland teams prepare to clash at the Homeless World Cup yesterday

Northern Ireland are guaranteed their best ever finish at the Homeless World Cup after their performance in the second group stage earned them a place in the last 16 of the tournament.

Justin McMinn's side lost both of their games yesterday against the Republic of Ireland and eventual group winners Hungary, but their two wins on Wednesday over Street Soccer United and India were enough to secure them a place in the quarter-finals of the Men's Plate.

Even if they lose their last 16 match it will still mark their highest ever placing at the World Cup with their previous best finish coming in 2015 when they came 24th in Amsterdam.

Northern Ireland will now face either Denmark, South Africa or Namibia in today's quarter-finals.

With only the top eight teams reaching the quarter-finals of the World Cup itself, the Plate is a subsidiary competition allowing sides to compete for silverware even if they failed to top their group in the second round.

Northern Ireland's defeat to Hungary was hard fought with the two teams separated by a single goal at half-time, but eventually the Hungarians' class shone through as they eased away in the second-half, winning 5-3.

The loss to their neighbours from the Republic was even harder to take, even if the result wouldn't have affected the outcome of the group either way, as the Northern Irishmen lost for the second time on penalties in the tournament.

The two sides were unable to be separated in regulation time after a 4-4 draw, but it was the Republic who held their nerve and triumphed to take the bragging rights.

The results meant Northern Ireland slipped from second to fourth in Group B, behind the Republic of Ireland and Chile.

However, the seven points they accumulated proved enough to give them a place in the Plate quarter-finals.

Captain Darren Spiers has had an excellent tournament and was again in fine goalscoring form yesterday, taking his tally for the World Cup to 25 goals in just 10 matches.

There was also a surprise goalscoring appearance for IFA Director of Football Development Michael Boyd, who netted a hat-trick against Argentina in the Coaches Tournament.

Belfast Telegraph

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