Northern Ireland’s Under-21s will take on France’s U21s in an international challenge match later this month.
The friendly against the French is set to take place in Calais, at the Stade de l'Épopée, on Monday 28 March (7.45pm kick-off, UK time).
When Northern Ireland’s U21s last faced France U21s in a friendly - it was in August 1999 - they won 3-1 at The Oval thanks to two goals from David Healy and another from Adrian Coote.
Since then the U21s have played the French twice, losing both games. They were defeated 1-0 in a Euro qualifier in Guingamp in November 2015 and then 3-0 in the reverse Euro qualifier at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park in October 2016.
France currently top Group H in the U21 Euro 2023 qualifiers after winning five and drawing one, with 20 goals for and just one against. The other teams in their group are Ukraine (currently in second place), North Macedonia, Faroe Islands, Serbia and Armenia.
Before this month’s game in Calais the Northern Ireland U21s will be taking on Slovakia in a U21 Euro 2023 Group C qualifier in Zilina on Friday 25 March (3pm start).
John Schofield’s side will be aiming to do the double over the Slovakians at Stadion MSK Zilina after defeating them 1-0 at Mourneview Park last September. A penalty from captain Ethan Galbraith was enough for the U21s to take all three points in a rugged encounter in Lurgan.
Slovakia are currently third in the six-team group with nine points from six games (three wins, three defeats), while Northern Ireland are fifth on six points (two wins, four defeats). A win for Northern Ireland could propel them up to third behind leaders Spain and second-placed Russia, who are suspended until further notice.
The U21s squad for the games in Slovakia and France is set to be announced tomorrow.
Northern Ireland U21s were due to play Russia at home in a U21 Euro 2023 Group C qualifier on 29 March, however that game was cancelled after the Irish FA announced Northern Ireland teams, both international teams or those affiliated to the association at club level, will not be playing Russian teams for the foreseeable future due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.