THERE’S lots at stake in this match for Northern Ireland. Can they get past Finland Chris Graham (@chrisgraham79)?
Northern Ireland v Finland | Sunday 17:00 | Sky Sports 5
The wave of optimism that’s encircled the Home Nations so far most definitely includes Northern Ireland. They got off to their best ever qualifying start by winning their opening three matches in Group F.
Two of those fixtures were tough assignments against the Greece and Hungary so it’s put Michael O’Neill’s side in a fantastic position going into this tough tie against Finland.
The Finns beat the Faroe Islands 3-1 in their opening qualifier but since then have lost to Romania and Hungary and drew with Greece at home. On a literal reading of that form, Northern Ireland are the better side but things rarely work out like that of course.
The sides are pretty much aligned in the betting with the home side as big as 7/4 with Paddy Power. That’s probably fair in the sense that Finland have been a lot more consistent than their hosts in recent campaigns, but this Irish side might have some momentum behind it.
As we’ve seen in previous qualifying campaigns with this nation the momentum tends to centre around Windsor Park. When they narrowly failed to qualify for Euro 2008, five of their six wins came on home turf. Could we see a similar campaign here? At the prices on offer I’m willing to take that chance.
The sides have met seven teams in their history with three wins apiece. That kind of sums up this game really – it could go either way. But with spirit behind the Irish and a win against Russia at Windsor Park in their last campaign fresh in the mind I have to side with the hosts.
A win here for Northern Ireland would be a massive step towards Euro 2016 and with a (hopefully) raucous crowd behind them then that seems a real possibility.
Northern Ireland v Finland – Northern Ireland to win (7/4 Paddy Power)
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