Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland target two old foes for October international friendly

Northern Ireland have two friendly fixture dates as they're in a Euro 2020 qualifying group of only five teams.
Northern Ireland have two friendly fixture dates as they're in a Euro 2020 qualifying group of only five teams.

By Paul Ferguson in the Sunday Life

Old foes Slovakia and the Czech Republic are in contention to face Northern Ireland in an October international friendly.

The Irish FA, due to Michael O’Neill’s men being in a five-team group in the Euro qualifiers, have been tasked by UEFA to arrange two friendlies on their international free dates in September and October next year.

Windsor Park chiefs announced last week that Northern Ireland will face Luxembourg on Thursday, September 5 ahead of their monumental Euro 2020 qualifier against Germany at Windsor Park three days later.

But the men in green also have a free date on match day eight — between the dates October 13 and October 15.

Northern Ireland will travel to Rotterdam on Thursday, October 10 to face the Netherlands in a Euro qualifier and then it is envisaged they would to want to play their friendly match on either Sunday, October 13 or Monday, October 14. This would be a full month before their next qualifier against the Netherlands at Windsor.

The Slovaks, who meet Wales on the same night as Northern Ireland tackle the Dutch, would be available to play on the Sunday, but the Czechs play a qualifier against Gareth Southgate’s England on the Friday night in Prague and therefore, with a two-day rest, they wouldn’t be available until the Monday.

Northern Ireland last played Slovakia two years ago in a bruising pre-Euros friendly in Bratislava, which finished 0-0, while the Czechs were in their 2018 World Cup qualifying group. The match in Prague ended scoreless but Northern Ireland beat the Czechs 2-0 in Belfast 15 months ago.

Denmark and Luxembourg also have free dates between October 13 and October 15, but with the Danes not playing their first match until Saturday, October 12, they wouldn’t be able to clash with Northern Ireland until the following Tuesday and that may prove too long a wait for O’Neill.

Luxembourg are obviously ruled out due to the September friendly at Windsor Park, while the Irish FA could arrange a friendly with a team outside of Europe, but that is highly unlikely.

The Irish FA confirmed to Sunday Life last night that they were still in negotiations with regard to their October friendly.

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