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Northern Ireland keen to make most of 'ideal opportunity' ahead of Belarus



Higher level: Demi Vance

Higher level: Demi Vance

Higher level: Demi Vance

Kenny Shiels won't let what he describes as an 'ideal opportunity' pass him by as he looks to the future as well as the present.

The Northern Ireland women's team will face Iceland this afternoon in their opening game at the Pinatar Cup in Spain, with further matches to come against Ukraine on Saturday and Scotland next Tuesday.

It isn't just the meeting with three teams who are ranked among the world's top 30 that will make it an intense week. Shiels has specifically tailored training plans too as he looks ahead to a potentially pivotal Women's Euro 2021 qualifier in Belarus next month.

"We have 20 players in the squad and, as well as everyone getting a lot of game time over the next week, there will be a lot of time spent on the training ground," said Shiels.

"We will change the team for each game so that everyone gets plenty of opportunities and experience against good teams.

"The players will know the team in advance of each game because, the day before, the starting 11 will take part in one session and the others will do a different session.

"This is an ideal opportunity for us to prepare for the match against Belarus when we hope to dominate the ball and the players have been responsive."

With the squad progressing at a quicker pace than ever before, Shiels has seen the number of players playing in England and Scotland grow in the short time since he took charge last June.

Demi Vance and Megan Bell, who have moved to Rangers, are the two who have grabbed most of the attention, and half the squad is now playing outside of the Danske Bank Women's Premiership.

Although it has been almost six months since the domestic season finished, and it won't kick off again until after the trip to Belarus, the locally-based players have been putting in the time on the training ground with Shiels determined to ensure his team has the best chance of success.

Belfast Telegraph