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Thursday 08 Feb 2024
Northern Ireland to face Luxembourg, Bulgaria and Belarus in UNL

Northern Ireland’s senior men’s team will take on Luxembourg, Bulgaria and Belarus in the UEFA Nations League this autumn.

Michael O’Neill’s side will be competing against the three nations in League C Group 3 in the fourth edition of the Nations League in September, October and November.

Luxembourg are top seeds in the group, while Bulgaria are second seeds. Northern Ireland were in Pot 3 in today’s draw staged in Paris, while Belarus were in the fourth pot. Former Greece international Giorgios Karagounis helped with the League C draw.

Northern Ireland last played Luxembourg in a friendly in March 2022, recording a 3-1 away win with goals from Josh Magennis, Steven Davis and Gavin Whyte.

The most recent encounter with the Bulgarians was in Sofia in October 2021 when Conor Washington scored in a 2-1 defeat in a World Cup qualifier.

And a goal from Paddy McNair in Borisov was enough to give Northern Ireland a 1-0 win when the two countries met in a Euro qualifier back in June 2019.

The winners of the four groups in League C will be automatically promoted to League B in the next edition of the competition. And the third-ranked teams of League B and the runners-up of League C will have to play a home-and-away promotion/relegation play-off.

There will also be play-offs between the two best-ranked fourth-placed teams from League C and the two runners-up from League D. The two lowest-ranked fourth-placed teams in League C, meanwhile, will be relegated to League D.

The Nations League is being expanded with a new knockout round to be played in March 2025, thereby creating continuity between the group phase ending in November and the finals played next summer.

The League A group winners and runners-up will participate in home-and-away quarter-finals, with the winners of these ties qualifying for the Final Four. The finals (to be staged by one of the four nations that qualify from League A) are set to take place in June 2025.

The fixtures in C3 will be determined soon, however matchday one will be between 5 and 7 September and matchday two will be between 8 and 10 September.

The other matchdays will be as follows: MD3: 10-12 October; MD4: 13-15 October; MD5: 14-16 November; MD6: 17-19 November.

Northern Ireland are due to play four friendlies – two in March (both away, against Romania and Scotland) and two in June (opposition TBC) – before their fourth UEFA Nations League campaign begins in September.