Northern Ireland qualify for Euro 2016 against the odds, but how did they achieve it? And how far can they go in France?
Northern Ireland may fancy their chances of defeating a Wales side missing Gareth Bale on Thursday, but boss Michael O’Neill admits the Real Madrid star would have provided a perfect test for their daunting Euro 2016 group.
The Dragons will be without both forward Bale and Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey in Cardiff due to respective calf and thigh injuries, and while O’Neill has lost Chris Brunt in recent weeks too, his men will be optimistic about their chances of recording a first victory over Wales in 36 years.
It is the first of four friendlies for both countries prior to Euro 2016 and O’Neill conceded that the challenge of shackling Bale, the world’s most expensive player, would have been the ideal preparation ahead of a tournament where they will come up against Poland’s Robert Lewandowski and Germany’s Thomas Muller.