Best Odds: 19/10
Following their impressive Euro 2016 appearance, Northern Ireland are looking for a backdoor pass into another European Championship as they get ready to kick off the UEFA Nations League against Bosnia-Herzegovina in Belfast.
The inaugural round of the UEFA Nations League will also become the first-ever competitive encounter between the two national sides and Northern Ireland will lack no motivation running onto the pitch at Windsor Park.
Michael O’Neil is set to continue his run at the Northern Ireland helm despite coming close to leaving his position this summer. The experienced manager was linked with Scotland post after failing to secure a World Cup place. Northern Ireland lost in the playoffs to Switzerland but the FA chiefs proved their faith in the manager by offering him a new six-year deal that will keep him through the third straight qualifying process. Martin O’Neil has thus become the fifth-longest serving manager in Europe and will definitely be motivated heading into the Nations League competition. Northern Ireland won last four home matches and will be looking to make it five out of five against Bosnia.
Will Grigg has been recalled to the squad for the first time in almost two years and will be hoping for a chance to prove his worth.
Chris Brunt retired from national duty, whereas Gareth McAuley and Aaron Hughes, despite both being 38, are in the squad.
The Balkan nation failed to qualify for both Euro 2016 and World Cup in Russia and the team led by Robert Prosinecki is looking to kick-start their UEFA Nations League campaign with much needed three points.
Despite boasting a squad packed with some of the world’s high-profile footballers such as Edin Dzeko and Miralem Pjanic, to name the few, Bosnia-Herzegovina seem unable to get the best of their team at the international level. That’ exactly why former Croatia international Robert Prosinecki was put in charge of the national side with hopes his reputation and style of management would inject a new life into a largely demoralized side. Bosnia-Herzegovina are coming off from a four-game unbeaten run which saw Prosinecki shuffle his deck with a couple of young players and implement several tactical changes which brought visible improvement and lifted the spirits within the squad. Heading over to Belfast, Bosnia will be keen to maintain the positive atmosphere and make one step closer to sneaking into the Euro 2020.
Bojan Nastic, Ermin Bikarcic and Ognjen Vranes have been ruled out with injuries whereas the visitors are hopeful Eldar Civic will be fit to play in Belfast.
Arsenal defender Sead Kolasinac is also the one to miss out on the Northern Ireland game whereas Robert Prosinecki raised plenty of eyebrows by deciding not to call up Bournemouth goalkeeper Asmir Begovic.
Key Factors to Consider
- Northern Ireland won all of their last 4 matches in Belfast
- O’Neil’s men kept a clean sheet in all home wins during the World Cup qualifiers
- Bosnia failed to score a goal in 4 of their last 6 matches
- Bosnia’s last 5 matches yielded under 2.5 goals
- This will be the 1st ever competitive meeting between the two sides
Despite missing out on the World Cup spot, Northern Ireland have been going through a remarkable stretch over the past couple of seasons. Martin O’Neil’s charges are a force to be reckoned with – especially in Belfast – and will be looking to kick off the Nations League in style. Bosnia are looking for a fresh start themselves under Robert Prosinecki and will lack no motivation at Windsor Park.
Best Odds: 19/10
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