Variety of challenge ahead for Northern Ireland excites Michael O'Neill

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill is out to maximise the variety of challenge provided by two games inside four days at the National Stadium.

Tuesday, 4th September 2018, 12:57 am
Updated Tuesday, 4th September 2018, 12:48 pm
Northern Ireland's Michael O'Neill

The weekend visit by Bosnia and Herzegovina - a first meeting between the teams - offers a tough test in which to kick off the UEFA Nations League programme before Northern Ireland switch focus to Tuesday's friendly with Israel.

O'Neill is determined to maintain the positive momentum over the past few years from EURO 2016 into the memorable World Cup qualifying campaign which finished in a play-off defeat to Switzerland.

“We’ll be trying to win them, first of all," said O'Neill. "The first one we want to win because obviously it’s a new tournament and it’s important we get off to a good start.

"I think the Bosnia game is going to be tough, they’re a good team.

"I looked at their World Cup qualifying group and probably one result cost them the chance of a play-off, away to Cyprus where they lost, that did the damage.

“In Edin Dzeko they’ve got one of the top strikers in Europe and Miralem Pjanic is arguably one of the top midfield players, certainly in Serie A.

"It’s going to be a tough game for us and it’s a tough group, we’re under no illusions.

“The fact that we’re competing at the second level of this, and you look at some of the countries in the third league, it shows what we’ve managed at achieve in recent times.

“For me the Nations League is important, to build that momentum again, to get the players focused again.

"The Israel game, it’s nice to have the friendly after the competitive game because it will then give me the opportunity to look at one or two things, one or two players, and give them game-time as well.”

Northern Ireland's fixtures in the inaugural UEFA Nations League, within Group 3 of League B, include October visits to Austria and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The final matchday is scheduled for November when Austria arrive in Belfast.