Northern Ireland v Korea Republic

taken place by that time. Should a nation already have qualified their place will go to the next highest-ranked team from their Nations League tier. The format means that two of the bottom 31 teams in UEFA’s 55-nation rankings are now guaranteed a place at the European Championships. For Northern Ireland the UEFA Nations League gets under way at 2pm on 8 September as Michael O’Neill’s side host Bosnia and Herzegovina here at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park. The next two fixtures in Group 3 within League B will see the boys in green face Austria away on Friday 12 October (7.45pm) followed by a trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina on Monday 15 October (7.45pm). The fourth and final group game will be at home to Austria on Sunday 18 November at 5pm. Northern Ireland have never played group opponents Bosnia and Herzegovina before. With the country having gained independence from the former Yugoslavia in March 1992, the Football Association of Bosnia and Herzegovina gained FIFA affiliation in 1996 and joined UEFA two years later. The Golden Lilies, as the team are nicknamed, made history by qualifying for the FIFA World Cup in 2014 – their first and only major tournament appearance to date, although the goals of Bristol City striker Milan Đurić did fire them to Kirin Soccer Cup success in 2016. Austria are more familiar opponents for Northern Ireland, with nine meetings to date. The pair were group opponents at the 1982 FIFA World Cup, with the match-up of July 1 finishing in a 2-2 draw. Goals are often a theme in matches between the two nations. Michael O’Neill scored twice in a 5-3 triumph over Austria at Windsor Park on November 15 in 1995, while there was a 3-3 draw in Belfast in 2004. The most recent fixture ended in a 2-0 win for the Austrians in Vienna on October 12, 2005.

September and November this year (and in 2020, 2022 etc thereafter). And the Nations League Finals (semi-finals, final and third place play-off) of League A will be held in June 2019 (and in 2021, 2013 etc thereafter). At the UEFA Nations League draw back in January the 55 member nations were arranged into four tiers based on their coefficient. The top 12 ranked countries - which include England, Italy, France, Germany, Spain and current European champions Portugal - were placed into four groups of three teams in League A. Northern Ireland were among the 12 nations to be divided into three-team groups in League B along with the likes of the Republic of Ireland and Wales. Fifteen teams were allocated to League C, while UEFA’s 16 lowest ranked teams, such as the Faroe Islands and Gibraltar, are part of League D. Both League C and D contain three and four team groups. The winners of each group in League A will progress to the Nations League Finals next year with one of those four teams going on to become overall tournament champions. The bottom side in each of the groups in League A following the group games will be relegated to Nations League B. The winners of each League B group will be promoted and the bottom team relegated to League C and so on and so forth all the way down to Nations League D. Teams in all four leagues will benefit from winning their groups as it will give them a chance of qualification to the European Championships and possibly a place at the FIFA World Cup in the future. The four group winners in each tier of the inaugural UEFA Nations League will be entered into a play-off competition in March 2020, with the ultimate victor from every league going on to claim one of the last four remaining spots at UEFA Euro 2020, with the main qualification campaign for that tournament already having


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