Northern Ireland's five worst qualifying campaign starts
Results Northern Ireland will be keen to avoid this time around
World Cup 2010: September 2008: Slovakia 2 Northern Ireland 1
After going close in the Euro 2008 campaign hopes were high that Northern Ireland would mount another serious challenge in the 2010 World Cup series. Losing away to Slovakia in the opening game was a setback that Nigel Worthington’s men never really recovered from.
Euro 2008: September 2, 2006: Northern Ireland 0 Iceland 3
There are those who will always say that if this result hadn’t been so bad then there wouldn’t have been such a positive response against Spain the following Wednesday night when David Healy hit a hat-trick in a 3-2 win and the three points wouldn’t have been enough to qualify anyway. Still, it was the darkest hour of Lawrie Sanchez’s reign as Eidur Gudjohnsen inspired the Icemen to victory and the beginning of the end, for him despite going unbeaten in competitive games after that.
Iceland also beat Northern Ireland in the return game, winning 2-1.
World Cup 1998: August 31, 1996: Northern Ireland 0 Ukraine 1
Bryan Hamilton’s side had made a serious challenge to reach the Euro 96 finals and only for a disastrous defeat at home to Latvia would have at least had a play-off with Holland — although a win that night would have secured qualfication. Ukraine were new to competitive football, but it didn’t show and Sergei Rebrov announced his arrival on the world stage with the winning goal.
World Cup 1994: April 18, 1992: Northern Ireland 2 Lithuania 2
Billy Bingham always used to like a home game against one of the weaker teams in the group to begin with in the hope of starting with three points. The plan backfired this time, despite a stirring start as Lithuania — in their first qualifying fixture after the break up of the USSR — fought back from 2-0 down to nick a draw.
Euro 1984: October 13, 1982: Austria 2 Northern Ireland 0
The first game after the glorious 1982 World Cup campaign fell flat. Having drawn 2-2 with the Austrians in Spain the general feeling was that they were beatable — even on their own patch. With Northern Ireland finishing level on points with West Germany at the end, this opening defeat proved costly — although a loss in Turkey and 0-0 draw in Albania didn’t help either.