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Tuesday 04 Jun 2024
Northern Ireland focused ahead of Portugal clash

Tanya Oxtoby is expecting her team to be fully focused when they take on Portugal in a UEFA Women’s Euro 2025 qualifier in Lurgan tonight.

The Northern Ireland senior women’s team manager believes her players have the ability to have a go against the Portuguese.

Tonight’s game at Mourneview Park - it’s a 7 o’clock kick-off - is part two of a double header against the League B Group 3 table toppers.

In the first instalment, on Friday night, Portugal ran out 4-0 winners and played some slick attacking football as they maintained their 100% record in the group.

Northern Ireland were in full-on defensive mode in Leiria, however Oxtoby wants her players to express themselves more in the second game and to take the game to the opposition.

In her Manager’s View column in the matchday programme for tonight’s game, she further reveals: “We prepared well for the match in Leiria. We always knew it was going to be a really tough challenge against the top seeds in our group.

“Portugal are a quality team and they showed it. They were quick to punish any errors and were relentless in pushing us back.”

She insists her team’s performance was “quite solid” for large parts of the game at Estádio Dr Magalhães Pessoa.

But in the programme she acknowledges that when you play good teams and you make mistakes, and don’t make the right decisions, then you are more than likely to get punished.

“You really can’t afford to switch off for a second against quality sides. Keeping our concentration in and out of possession is something we are continually working on,” the manager says.

And she adds: Our challenge coming in to this home game is to execute our game plan for the full 90-plus minutes and cut down on those errors.

“We need to make it really, really difficult for Portugal to create opportunities and, naturally, to prevent them from scoring.”

The defeat in Leiria was Northern Ireland’s first loss in the Women’s Euro 2025 qualifiers so far and Oxtoby is keen for her players to bounce back and put in a good performance before they complete their qualification campaign away to Malta and at home to Bosnia and Herzegovina next month.

In the programme she further points out: “There is no doubt the group is tough, however we will certainly not roll over for any team within it.

“I thought our team spirit and togetherness shone through once again in Leiria. We dug deep and kept battling away right until the end.”

The Northern Ireland manager prefers grass pitches to 3G surfaces, hence the game being taken to Mourneview while the pitch at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park is undergoing maintenance.

She says the team are “very excited” to be playing in Lurgan and to be playing outside Belfast.

We relish playing in front of our home crowd as our supporters always create a great atmosphere,” she insists in the matchday programme.

*Tickets are still available for tonight’s game. It is also being shown live on the BBC Sport NI website and BBC iPlayer.