Northern Ireland v Korea Republic



On behalf of the Irish Football Association it gives me great pleasure to welcome the players, officials and supporters of the Korea Republic to Northern Ireland and in particular to our National Football Stadium here in Belfast for this afternoon’s Vauxhall International Challenge Match.

This is the first occasion for the two countries to meet in an ‘A’ international and I hope that all our visitors enjoy their short stay in Northern Ireland. South Korea come to Belfast as a qualifying nation for the 2018 FIFA World Cup finals being hosted by Russia this summer. Ranked at 59 in the FIFA Coca-Cola World Rankings, and drawn with Germany, Mexico and Sweden in Group F at the World Cup, they represent a good challenge for Michael O’Neill and his players in what will be Northern Ireland’s last home game until the commencement of the UEFA Nations League in September. Our 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign brought great team performances, sold-out games, fantastic support, excitement and, finally, disappointment after that herculean effort against Switzerland in Basel. Recognising Michael’s significant contribution and also the overall development strategy of the association, the board offered him a four-year contract extension which was duly completed and signed early last month. In addition Michael has the role of Chief Football Officer with the association, ensuring stability and continuity going forward.

Moving on, today’s game against the Korea Republic (South Korea) effectively begins Northern Ireland’s preparations for our next challenge: to qualify for Euro 2020. Friendlies in Panama and Costa Rica during the early summer followed by four UEFA Nations League games and two further friendlies during the autumn will provide Michael, his backroom team and the senior players with nine internationals this year in advance of the Euro 2020 qualification groups commencing in March 2019. Support for the teamwas fantastic throughout the last qualifying series with a special atmosphere created in the National Stadium for all those evening matches. It is some time since we have played an afternoon match and we look to the supporters to continue providing their encouragement again today. Enjoy the game and have a safe journey home.. David J Martin President Irish Football Association


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