Northern Ireland v Korea Republic


Welcome to the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park for today’s Vauxhall International Challenge match between Northern Ireland and Korea Republic.

This is the first of our nine scheduled senior men’s international matches this year, five of which are friendlies and four, of course, in the new UEFA Nations League. We are delighted we are at full capacity today, and I hope that any supporters who have bought tickets to see Northern Ireland for the first time enjoy the day and the special atmosphere. It is now almost five months since the Belfast- Basel double header against Switzerland which edged us out of the FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia, and I think I speak for every Northern Ireland fan when I say that we have not forgotten, nor will we ever forget, the events of those few days. Places at the FIFA World Cup are places in history and should be decided by the skill and endeavour of one team over another, not by a refereeing error. However, as our captain Steven Davis said on the night in Basel, the campaign as a whole needs to be seen as a success. Coming second in the group to world champions Germany, who didn’t drop a single point, and then taking a Swiss team ranked 11th in the world literally to the last minute over two legs in the play- offs was an incredible feat for such a small nation - and we should be proud of our achievement. With the memories of the past two campaigns now safely locked away, and with Michael O’Neill set to lead us into the future having signed an extended contract, this is an exciting time.

No longer are we among the minnows of European football, and our place in UEFA’s new Nations League B is testament to this. We have been drawn against Austria and Bosnia and Herzegovina in the first edition of this new league competition, with a place in Nations League A up for grabs for the winners of our mini league. Tickets for our September and November home games in this competition go on sale for campaign card holders in April with general sales scheduled for June. Finally, it has been a very lively season on the domestic front, and at this point there is a real fight for the Danske Bank Premiership title with Crusaders in pole position and Coleraine right on their shoulder. The Tennent’s Irish Cup has also been box office, with the semi-finals coming up next weekend. Cliftonville and Coleraine are up against Bluefin Sport Championship sides Loughgall and Larne respectively, so at this point we could see any combination of heavyweights and fairytales in the final here on Saturday 5 May. Don’t let anyone tell you our football is boring! Enjoy the match today.

Patrick Nelson Chief Executive Irish Football Association


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