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Luc Holtz wants Northern Ireland’s ‘heart and fight’ in his Luxembourg team

The teams go head-to-head in a friendly at Windsor Park on Thursday.

Luc Holtz wants his side to learn lessons from facing Northern Ireland (John Walton/PA)
Luc Holtz wants his side to learn lessons from facing Northern Ireland (John Walton/PA)

By Ian Parker, PA

Luxembourg coach Luc Holtz wants his players to learn a few lessons from Northern Ireland when they face them in a friendly at Windsor Park on Thursday.

Like Northern Ireland, Luxembourg are trying to punch above their weight in European football, and Holtz sees examples worth following in Michael O’Neill’s side.

“They are a team that play with heart and fight, they never give up,” Holtz said. “They will test us to our limit and that’s a good thing.

“Northern Ireland have shown in recent games they have a big heart and I want our players to have a big heart.”

While Luxembourg operate a few notches below the Green and White Army on the world stage – ranked 91st compared to Northern Ireland’s 29th – there are plenty of similarities in what each nation is trying to do, and listening to Holtz can be like listening to O’Neill talk about his own side.

Though they have not won any of their last four outings, results have been on the up of late and Luxembourg won six of their 11 matches in 2018.

“There are many factors which have given us more success but we have a lot of skilful players who are playing regularly for their clubs, which makes a big difference,” Holtz said.

“They have played against some strong opponents. My players work hard and impose that quality that they have.

“It’s a change of mentality in the head. A few years ago our players went out on the pitch not to lose by too many. Now they go out and want to win. That’s a big change that has helped us progress.”

Northern Ireland will use Thursday’s game to prepare for Monday’s Euro 2020 qualifier against Germany, and it is no different for Luxembourg, who face Serbia in a qualifier next week looking to build on a decent start which has seen them take four points from four games.

Holtz primarily spoke through a translator on Wednesday, but asked if his team could ever emulate Northern Ireland and qualify for a major tournament he broke into a broad smile and answered himself.

“You put a lot of pressure on me,” he said, before reverting back to speaking in French.

“It must be our goal and our vision,” he added. “To qualify for a major tournament would be very difficult but that’s what we’re aiming for. The will is there.

“It will be difficult but you never know in football and maybe we can make a breakthrough.”

PA

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