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Northern Ireland reveal details of first March friendly with one more to follow ahead of Nations League campaign

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Northern Ireland's George Saville and Josh Magennis celebrate the winning goal the last time the side met Luxembourg back in 2019. Pic: INPHO/Presseye/William Cherry

Northern Ireland's George Saville and Josh Magennis celebrate the winning goal the last time the side met Luxembourg back in 2019. Pic: INPHO/Presseye/William Cherry

©INPHO/Presseye/William Cherry

Northern Ireland's George Saville and Josh Magennis celebrate the winning goal the last time the side met Luxembourg back in 2019. Pic: INPHO/Presseye/William Cherry

Northern Ireland have confirmed one half of their March friendly double-header ahead of this year’s UEFA Nations League campaign.

The 2022 international football calendar for Ian Baraclough’s side is heavily weighted towards the first half of the year thanks to the World Cup finals taking place next winter.

Ahead of their four quickfire Nations League ties in June, with the final two group games following in September, Baraclough’s side have two opportunities to tune up in March.

One of those will be in Luxembourg City, where Northern Ireland will play their host nation on Friday, March 25.

That comes slap bang in the middle of the international window, which stretches from March 21-29, and the Irish FA have yet to confirm when, where and against who their second friendly game will take place, although said that news will be announced soon.

Northern Ireland and Luxembourg last met in a friendly in September 2019 when a Kevin Malget own goal gave Northern Ireland a narrow 1-0 win in Belfast.

The first time Northern Ireland played Luxembourg in a full international was in February 2000 at the Barthel Stadium in Luxembourg. The boys in green and white secured a 3-1 victory in the friendly with David Healy, then a reserve striker at Manchester United, scoring twice on his debut.

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Their next meeting was in September 2012 in a World Cup qualifier when Dean Shiels scored in a 1-1 draw in Belfast and a year later Northern Ireland lost 3-2 to Luxembourg away in the reverse fixture. Martin Paterson and Gareth McAuley were on target that day.

Ahead of the next meeting, Northern Ireland manager Ian Baraclough said: “This will be a welcome test for the team and a good way to kick off our year. We know this Luxembourg side can cause problems and we will be preparing thoroughly to make sure we’re at our very best.”

Northern Ireland, as top seeds, will face Greece, Kosovo and Cyprus or Estonia in Group C of the Nations League.

The main significance of the competition in the Euro 2024 play-off berth that, while UEFA have yet to confirm how the places will be divided, is almost certain to go to the group winners.

Northern Ireland’s Nations League campaign begins against Greece on June 2, followed by an away trip to Cyprus or Estonia on June 5. Next up is a trip to Kosovo (June 5) and then there’s a home game v Cyprus/Estonia on June 12. Their final two games in Nations League C2 will take place in late September – against Kosovo at home on the 24th and second seeds Greece away on the 27th.


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