- Kenny Shiels’ side will play first leg of next month’s Euro play-off in Ukraine
Northern Ireland’s senior women’s team will face Ukraine in the UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 play-offs next month.
The first game in the two-legged play-off for a place at the Women’s European Championship finals in England next year will be staged in Ukraine, with the second leg in Belfast.
The venues and dates have still to be confirmed, however the two games will be staged between 7 and 13 April.
In the latest Coca-Cola FIFA World Ranking – published in December – Ukraine were ranked 24th, while Northern Ireland were in 49th position.
Northern Ireland Women last played Ukraine Women at the Pinatar Cup competition in Spain a year ago. On that occasion the Ukrainians ran out 4-0 winners against a relatively inexperienced Northern Ireland team.
Northern Ireland finished second in Women’s Euro 2022 Qualifying Group C behind Norway to reach a play-off for a major tournament for the first time in their history.
Ukraine were runners-up in Group I, which Germany won with a 100% record. Ukraine won five and lost three as they vied with Republic of Ireland for second place, the Ukrainians eventually prevailing on a two-point margin.
In the group Ukraine’s top scorers were defender Darya Kravets and midfielder Nadiia Kunina, who weighed in with three goals apiece. They scored 16 times in their eight matches and conceded 21 goals. Northern Ireland scored 17 and conceded 17 in their group, although 12 of those goals were shipped against the high-flying Norwegians.
Ukraine were the first team out of the bowl in today’s draw at UEFA HQ in Switzerland. The draw was conducted by former FIFA world player of the year Nadine Kessler, who is now UEFA’s Head of Women’s Football.
Russia were initially picked out of the bowl to face the Ukrainians, however UEFA’s Executive Committee had already ruled those two countries could not be drawn together, so Northern Ireland were next out of the bowl – and were slotted in to face Ukraine.
Russia will instead compete with Portugal in the play-offs, while Czech Republic and Switzerland, the highest ranked team in today’s draw (19th), will face each other.
The three play-off winners will advance to the July 2022 finals to join hosts England, nine qualifying group winners and three runners-up that are already assured of finals places.
England is set to host the 16-team finals from 6 to 31 July next year.