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Cross-border rivals are ready for crunch battle at Homeless World Cup

By Adam McKendry

Published 13/07/2016

United: Northern Ireland and Italy players celebrate after yesterday’s match
United: Northern Ireland and Italy players celebrate after yesterday’s match

Northern Ireland had a day of mixed fortunes at the Homeless World Cup in Glasgow yesterday after they picked up another emphatic win, but also suffered their first loss of the tournament.

They defeated Italy 11-2 in their second game of the afternoon, their third game of the group stages where they scored more than 10 goals, however they were cruelly defeated on penalties by group winners Romania.

The Northern Irishmen have excelled beyond expectations at the competition and were seconds away from recording victory against the Romanians, a side ranked 15 places above them coming into the tournament.

Justin McMinn’s men led for most of the game and were a goal up going into the last 30 seconds, but a late equaliser denied them the victory their performance deserved.

Romania went on to win the game 2-1 on penalties which ended up being the difference between the two sides in the group.

The Northern Irishmen rallied to win yesterday’s second group match 11-2 against Italy with captain Darren Spiers excelling, however it wasn’t enough to take top spot.

Romania finished at the summit of Group E on 14 points, one point ahead of Northern Ireland who managed an impressive 13 points.

Not disheartened, however, both the Northern Irish and Italian players showed the unity of the event with players from both teams linking hands at full-time and celebrating in front of another large crowd in George Square in the centre of Glasgow.

The Northern Ireland team have become something of a talking point for many fans who are impressed not just with their manner on the pitch, but also with their manner off it.

They have gained a strong following in Glasgow who will back them as they head into the second group stage of the tournament which starts today.

The Republic of Ireland team were also in fine form as they picked up two more wins over Greece and Sweden in Group D yesterday.

Greece were easily beaten 15-1, and that result was quickly followed by a 14-1 triumph over the Swedes, two wins that keep the Irish top of their group and unbeaten at the tournament.

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