Northern Ireland men’s Under 17s and Under 19s will face tough competition as they bid to qualify for their respective UEFA Euro 2023 European Championship finals.
The qualifying round draws for both tournaments were staged yesterday at UEFA headquarters in Nyon and both age group teams have been handed stiff challenges next autumn.
Northern Ireland U17s begin the road to Hungary with Group 4 matches against Scotland, Czech Republic and hosts Malta. The games in the four-team mini tournament are set to be played in October 2022.
The top two teams in each of the 13 groups in the qualifying round will join top seeds Netherlands and Spain in the spring 2023 elite round along with the four third-placed teams with the best records against the top two in their section.
All will be bidding to join hosts Hungary in the final 16-team tournament in May 2023.
Meanwhile, Northern Ireland U19s have been pitted against hosts Netherlands as well as Slovenia and Moldova in Group 13 of qualifying. The games are scheduled to be played in September 2022 as they bid to be one of the eight teams at the finals in Malta in the summer of 2023.
The top two teams in each group will join top seeds Portugal in the spring 2023 elite round along with the third-placed team with the best record against the top two in their section.
Gerard Lyttle, manager of both Northern Ireland sides, said they were "two tough groups".
“We look forward to the challenge of playing against the best countries at international level,” he said.
"The last campaigns gave us a real insight as to what to expect. Getting the dates confirmed this early means we can prepare for September and October and give ourselves the best opportunity to go and compete, with the target, as always, to qualify.”