Belfast Telegraph

Wales v Northern Ireland: Let's reach cloud nine and equal Billy Bingham's record

O'Neill's men out to equal Bingham's unbeaten record

By Steven Beacom

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill has challenged his team to maintain their outstanding form over the past year against Wales tonight and equal a long standing record, created by Billy Bingham's sides, in the process.

O'Neill's Northern Ireland enter this evening's friendly in Cardiff on the back of an eight match unbeaten run. Should they avoid defeat they will equal the nation's all time best of nine undefeated games in a row set by teams led by the legendary Bingham at the start of the 80s and in the middle of that decade.

"It would be good for the players to go nine games unbeaten and hopefully then go 10 games unbeaten on Monday night when we play Slovenia at home," said O'Neill.

"We are unbeaten in eight games and have a consistency in our play. I want that to continue.

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"I also want us to go into Euro 2016 with momentum, the highest world ranking possible and our confidence high. Against Wales we want a good performance and if we continue to get results that momentum can develop."

O'Neill added that he is keen to keep the feelgood factor going in Northern Ireland, which was generated on the back of qualification for this year's finals.

"It's an exciting time for us and it is an exciting time for football in general in Northern Ireland and we want to continue to feed that before the tournament and we do that with good performances and results," said the manager.

O'Neill admits that playing a Welsh side minus star players Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey won't mirror the group games in Euro 2016, but does feel tonight's fixture will act as vital preparation for the summer.

Northern Ireland's opening game in the finals is against Poland, who were in action last night at home to Serbia. The Poles ran out 1-0 winners thanks to a 28th-minute goal from Fiorentina winger Jakub Blaszczykowski.

Poland's chief threat normally comes from Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski, but he failed to hit the net and was substituted in the second-half.

Tonight, another of Northern Ireland's opponents in France, Ukraine, are at home to Cyprus, while Germany host England on Saturday.

Belfast Telegraph


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