Northern Ireland’s Under-21s are set to face Spain, Russia and Slovakia in their next U21 Euros qualifying campaign.
And the boys in green and white will also be taking on Lithuania and Malta in the qualifiers for the 2023 UEFA European Under-21 Championship finals.
Northern Ireland were placed in Pot 4 in today’s qualifying draw for the 2023 Euros, which will be staged in Georgia and Romania. The draw was held at UEFA HQ in Nyon, Switzerland.
Spain are the top seeds in Qualifying Group C, while Russia are second seeds. Both countries have qualified for this year’s U21 Euros.
Northern Ireland will face familiar opponents in Malta. In their last qualifying campaign, for the 2021 finals in Hungary and Slovenia, the U21s drew with the Maltese 0-0 at home and defeated them 2-0 away.
They last faced top seeds Spain in qualifying for the 2019 U21 Euros when current senior team boss Ian Baraclough was in charge. They finished second to the Spanish in Qualifying Group 2 but narrowly missed out on a play-off for a place at the finals.
Group matches in the 2023 UEFA European Under-21 Championship will begin in March this year and be completed by June next year.
The nine group winners and the best runner-up will automatically qualify for the final tournament alongside the two host countries. The other eight runners-up will play off for the remaining four finals berths in September 2022.