Belfast Telegraph

All Northern Ireland eyes will be focused on the Euro finals draw now

By Steven Beacom

Northern Ireland fans will have to wait until December before knowing who they will play in the Euro 2016 finals - and perhaps even more importantly where they will play to formulate travel plans for next year's tournament.

It is estimated that up to 10,000 Northern Ireland supporters could make the trip to France for what may be a once- -in-a lifetime experience, after the team qualified in such thrilling fashion last night.

Euro 2016 will kick-off on June 10 when the hosts France will play against opposition yet to be determined at the Stade de France and it will end with the July 10 final at the same venue.

The Green and White Army will be marking down December 12, 2015, as a date for their diaries.

That's when the draw, which will be attended by manager Michael O'Neill, for the finals will take place at the Palais des Congres de la Porte Mallot in Paris.

It will also be when Northern Ireland fans will find out which cities their heroes will be playing in.

There are 10 in total: Bordeaux, Lens, Lille, Lyon, Marseille, Nice, Paris, Saint Denis, St-Etienne and Toulouse. The dream ticket for the Green and White Army would be to have at least one game in Paris.

The 24 teams who have qualified will be drawn into six groups of four with seedings decided by Uefa National team coeffficients or rankings.

Given this is the first time 24 nations will have taken part in the tournament, the format will be changed from previous European Championships. The top two sides from each group will still go through to the knockout stages, but they will also be joined in the last 16 by the four best third-ranked sides.

From there it is win or go home.

Given what O'Neill and his team have achieved in qualifying they will feel confident that a place in the knockout stages will not be beyond them.

For the players it is now all about being fit and being selected in the squad for the trip.

Belfast Telegraph