Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland have prepared well and will give this our best shot, says Shiels

Northern Ireland v Norway, Euro 2021 Qualifying Group C, Seaview, Tonight, 7.45pm

Captain competition: Marissa Callaghan is set to skipper Northern Ireland in Kenny Shiels’ first game at the helm
Captain competition: Marissa Callaghan is set to skipper Northern Ireland in Kenny Shiels’ first game at the helm
Kenny Shiels

By Steven Beacom

Kenny Shiels is relishing his first match as the manager of the Northern Ireland women's team against Norway at Seaview tonight.

Shiels has achieved much in football but if he inspires his side to victory in this Euro 2021 qualifier, it will be viewed as one of the most special occasions of his lengthy career.

Despite home advantage, Northern Ireland enter the game as massive underdogs. Norway, after all, reached the World Cup quarter-finals and are considered one of the best sides on the planet.

Certainly Shiels could have done with an easier opener but, rather than fear the challenge, he wants his players to embrace it.

"Norway are a strong side but we are at home and have good players ourselves and I want my team to show that," said the ex-Kilmarnock, Coleraine and Ballymena boss.

"I'll be very proud managing the Northern Ireland women's team for the first time in such a big game.

"The players have worked very hard in preparation and I want them to go out and give it their best shot."

Norway won't lack confidence having beaten Northern Ireland 4-1 at home and 3-0 at Shamrock Park in the last World Cup qualifying campaign.

Shiels consulted with his predecessor Alfie Wylie about the make-up of his squad for this game and next week's qualifier in Wales and decided to leave out some talented under-19 players believing they can come in later in the campaign.

"I did consult with Alfie, who helped me establish where we would need to strengthen and what players he felt were up to the international standard. The first thing I decided to do was to not touch the Under-19s, to give them something to aspire to as opposed to going straight into the squad," said Shiels.

"I've been going over to England on Sundays to get a handle on the players we have. We have Simone Magill and Rachel Furness in the top division and then a few sprinkled through the second tier of English football.

"It's very important to have as many players as possible at a high level. If we were to depend solely on our domestic league, then we wouldn't be able to compete. That's no slight on our domestic league at all. That has to improve and there is an enormous amount of work going on to make our domestic league better."

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