Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland U21s can take three points from Iceland: Baraclough

 

By Steven Beacom

Northern Ireland under-21 boss Ian Baraclough believes tonight's European Championship qualifying clash with Iceland will be a completely different game to last week's thrilling encounter with Spain.

And he has faith in his side that they can deliver a different result.

At Shamrock Park on Thursday Baraclough's boys produced a stirring performance as they lost 5-3 to a Spanish side filled with youngsters who play in La Liga.

The double-header concludes this evening at the Coleraine Showgrounds against Iceland, with Northern Ireland needing a victory to keep their hopes alive of reaching next year's finals.

Paul Smyth played against Spain before enjoying an incredible goalscoring senior debut on Saturday against South Korea. Much as he would probably like to, the QPR winger won't make it three games in five days because he is suspended.

Baraclough remains confident, however, that he has enough quality to land maximum points.

"I think it will be chalk and cheese when compared with the Spain game. Iceland will come with a different mindset but for us we will go out and be positive and look to win the game," he said.

"It's not in our nature to sit back and I believe the boys are good enough to keep playing in an attacking manner.

"I don't think we helped ourselves against Spain with some of the goals we conceded but we can learn from that.

"This is a good group and they want to learn, which is important.

"The staff and the players have worked very hard since we joined up and we want to get a victory against Iceland.

"We still have an opportunity to finish as runners-up to Spain in the group and amass enough points to make the play-offs. That's our aim."

There are nine groups in the Euro under-21 qualifiers.

The top team in each one goes to the finals automatically. Spain's dominance, with five wins out of five, will ensure they top Northern Ireland's section.

But there is hope for Baraclough's team as the best four second-placed sides from the nine groups enter a play-off for the finals.

When the groups are completed the points for the runners-up gained against the bottom teams are eliminated. Currently Northern Ireland, in second, have 10 points and Iceland are back in fourth on seven with a game in hand.

Tonight at Coleraine everything points to a defining 90 minutes in the campaign for both. Northern Ireland skipper Liam Donnelly, who scored on Thursday, said: "Against Spain we knew that if we went out and sat back it would have suited them but while we did well going forward we conceded some sloppy goals so we were disappointed.

"Some of the defending wasn't good enough and that shows where we are at as a team coming off the pitch and being disappointed at losing to Spain.

"Now we have to get a positive result against Iceland.

"We have a good team spirit in the group and never give up. We have a good bunch of lads and stick together."

Belfast Telegraph

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph