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Kenny Shiels: My Northern Ireland team are not ready for the Euro finals... I just hope the girls can prove me wrong

Honest international boss sets out challenge to his team


Northern Ireland boss Kenny Shiels at training in Belgium

Northern Ireland boss Kenny Shiels at training in Belgium

William Cherry/Presseye

Northern Ireland boss Kenny Shiels at training in Belgium

Kenny Shiels has laid down a ‘prove me wrong’ challenge to his Northern Ireland players just a fortnight away from stepping on to the biggest stage of their careers.

Two weeks tonight the history-making girls in green will walk out against Norway in their opening game of the Women’s Euro 2022 finals – the first time that Northern Ireland have reached a major tournament in the women’s game.

Shiels, however, believes that the difference in quality between his team and the leading nations means that Northern Ireland have gate crashed their way to the top table early.

As the lowest ranked of the 16 competing countries Northern Ireland will be fighting the odds as well as Norway, Austria and England — and their own manager’s expectations too.

“We have to try to get a result against Austria, England or even Norway. Two of those teams will potentially be in the final of this competition so we want to try to get as close to them and narrow the gap,” said Shiels, ahead of tonight’s pre-tournament friendly in Belgium.

“We’ve got to keep trying to narrow that gap until we get our development players through and then we can match the Englands, the Norways and the Austrians.

“We’ve probably reached these finals too soon in terms of being ready, but we’ll see because I hope the girls can contradict that and go and get a result against Norway and get a result against Austria as well.”

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Ashley Hutton is expected to be given the opportunity to prove her readiness for the finals by starting tonight’s game, but captain Marissa Callaghan won’t feature as she works her way back from a foot injury.

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