Northern Ireland continue their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign by welcoming Belrus to Windsor Park on Sunday evening. Michael O’Neill’s Irish team got off to a good start in Belfast on Thursday evening, with Steven Davis and Niall McGinn on target in the second half of a 2-0 victory over Estonia. Paddy McNair missed a big chance to score in the first half, though, and O’Neill has stated he wants his team to be more clinical in the opposition half. Although Estonia rarely threatened the Irish defence, the Ulstermen struggled to create many clear-cut chances of their own.
Belarus opened their own qualifying campaign with a trip to Rotterdam to face the Netherlands. They suffered a 4-0 defeat to the Dutch, in a game where they easily beaten and offered little threat to the Dutch goal.
Northern Ireland vs Belarus Prediction: N. Ireland 1-0 Belarus
Our prediction for this game is that the home wide will win it 1-0. Belarus do not have enough quality in the side to really trouble the Ulstermen in Belfast on Sunday, and we suspect that they will set up in a negative formation intended to frustrate Michael O’Neill’s team. Northern Ireland scored twice against Estonia in their opening game, but still looked a little blunt in attack at times. Despite that bluntness, we still think that the Irish will score one goal, which should be enough for the win and a vital three qualifying points.
Our recommended tip: N. Ireland 1-0
Our featured tip for this game comes from Coral, who are offering odds of 4/1 on Northern Ireland winning 1-0. We think this is a good bet as the home side look to have enough quality to beat Belarus, but are unlikely to score many goals. Manager Michael O’Neill has told the media that he wasn’t especially happy with the way that his team failed to create clear-cut chances in the victory over Estonia. We suspect that they won’t create many against Belarus either, but will create at least one good chance that will see them score the game’s only goal.
These two teams are not especially familiar with each other, having faced each other on just one previous occasion in football history. They have never faced each other in a competitive match, either, with their only meeting coming in a friendly international. That game was played at Windsor Park, Belfast, in May 2016. The home side won the game 3-0, with the goals coming from Kyle Lafferty, Conor Washington and Will Grigg. The Northern Irish management, players and fans would surely settle for a repeat of that scoreline on Sunday evening.
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Players to watch: Niall McGinn & Anton Putsila
Aberdeen winger Niall McGinn will be an important player for Northern Ireland on Sunday evening. The 31-year-old broke the deadlock against Estonia, scoring in the 57th minute of Northern Ireland’s opener in Belfast. He was one of Northern Ireland’s more creative players on the night, offering threat from the flank as well as in front of goal. Michael O’Neill is looking for more penetration in attack from his players, and McGinn will be an important man when it comes to providing more threat.
Anton Putsila plays just behind the striker for Belarus, and will be looking to provide much of his team’s creativity in attack on Sunday evening. How much chance he gets to show his quality remains to be seen, though. Currently at Altay in Turkey, Putsila has previously played for Hamburg and Freiburg in Germany’s Bundesliga. He has six goals to his name from 54 appearances for Belarus.