Today sees the tail end of our 2008 European Championship Qualifying campaign. As always, you’ll be able to catch the real-life review on That Football Daily.
The group is delicately poised at the halfway point. We sit in 4th but are only 3 points off that elusive 2nd place currently occupied by Greece. Catch up here.
Greece v Northern Ireland
The hopes are high after a good showing against the Greeks in Belfast at the start of the campaign.
The worst possible start as Greece take the ball from kick-off and score, 1-0. Things don’t get much better as Giorgos Anatolakis doubles the lead just after the half hour. Things go from bad to worse in the second half as Greece grab another 2 to finish off a comprehensive 4-0 victory.
Latvia v Northern Ireland
A friendly fixture in Riga, this time we use our first strength team and it pays off with a 3-0 victory.
Northern Ireland v Italy
A few changes as we go back to our first choice XI against a difficult Italy side.
A tactically and technically adept Italian team come to Belfast with big names in abundance.
Christian Vieri gives Italy the lead after only 8 minutes and Francesco Totti doubles that lead just 4 minutes later. Vieri grabs his second in the 31st minute Debutant Lee Feeney pulls one back for NI 5 minutes into the second half but an Enrico Amore goal on 80 minutes restores Italy’s 3 goal lead before Vieri completes his hattrick in the final minute of play. Oh dear.
Albania v Northern Ireland
A chance to restore some pride as we travel to Albania (5 played, 5 losses).
A strange set up from Albania, hopefully plenty of space to exploit.
An awful first half for us ends with the scores level thanks to a 21st minute Ervin Skela strike, cancelled out by Stuart Elliott’s 42nd-minute equaliser. Skela scores a second on the hour mark before completing his hattrick on 78 minutes. An utter disaster.
Northern Ireland v Bulgaria
Our final group game is a must win to avoid any potential embarrassment of finishing bottom of the group.
Berbatov is on the bench for Bulgaria today as they look to claim 2nd place.
Philip Mulryne gives Northern Ireland the lead on his return to the starting line up, 1-0. The lead is doubled on 41 minutes by Lee Feeney. Stilian Petrov pulls one back for Bulgaria on 57 minutes but Northern Ireland hold out to secure a vital 2-1 victory to end the campaign.
Northern Ireland v Lithuania (friendly)
Our usual November friendly sees us welcome Lithuania back to Belfast and we almost blow a 30 minute 3-0 lead.
2008 European Championship Qualifying Group 1 Review
A total disaster for us as I feel we have regressed somewhat after our 2nd place finish in the World Cup Qualifiers. Thankfully we saved some dignity by avoiding finishing bottom of the group!
Greece managed to scrape through their playoff against Turkey on away goals so will feature at the European Championship finals.
2008 European Championship: Sweden
Joe Cole scored the goal that sealed England’s first ever European Championship trophy. England beat winners of our qualifying group, Italy, in the semi-final having qualified from a finals group continuing Greece.
2010 World Cup Qualifying is up next and hopefully, we can bounce back in style!