The UEFA Nations League trophy
Northern Ireland will face Luxembourg, Bulgaria and Belarus in the 2024/25 Nations League having been drawn into Group C3 at the draw in Paris on Thursday evening.
Michael O’Neill’s men will be the highest ranked side in C3 but will likely have to battle to earn promotion to League B for 2026 as it is a closely fought group they will have on their hands.
Bulgaria look like they will be the biggest threats, but Luxembourg punch above their weight given the size of their nation while Belarus’ lowly 95th world ranking does not truly reflect their ability.
Northern Ireland are back in League C for a second consecutive season after finishing third in Group C3 with just one win, over Kosovo, avoiding finishing bottom and going into a Play-Off on goal difference ahead of Cyprus.
This will be the first time Northern Ireland have faced Luxembourg since a 3-1 friendly win in March 2022 but, remarkably, will be a first competitive meeting with the minnows since a World Cup qualifier in September 2003.
Certainly O’Neill will hope for better fortunes against Bulgaria, whom Northern Ireland haven’t beaten in their last five meetings stretching back to 2001, with their last win over their opponents coming back in 1979 when Chris Nicholl and Gerry Armstrong earned them a 2-0 victory at Windsor Park.
It is a better story against Belarus, however, as Northern Ireland have won all three meetings between the sides all of which came within the last eight years, a 3-0 friendly win in May 2016 followed up by two Euro 2020 qualifying wins, firstly in March 2019 and then just under three months later in June.
The fixture schedule will be released by UEFA soon, but it seems likely that Northern Ireland’s away gameRead on belfasttelegraph.co.uk