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Tuesday 26 Mar 2024
O’Neill looking forward to Scotland test

Michael O’Neill believes Euros-bound Scotland will be out to prove a point against Northern Ireland when the teams meet in an international challenge match at Hampden Park this evening.

Scotland lost 4-0 to the Netherlands in a friendly in Amsterdam on Friday, while Northern Ireland had an encouraging 1-1 draw against another Euros-bound team, Romania, on the same night.

Steve Clarke’s side have not registered a victory in the past six matches following their qualification for UEFA Euro 2024, with their last win coming at Hampden against Cyprus in a Euro qualifier back in September.

However, Northern Ireland manager O’Neill believes the Scots will want to get things back on track ahead of the European Championship finals in Germany this summer.

He felt the defeat against the Dutch was “a bit harsh” on Scotland as they created plenty of chances during the game at the Johan Cruyff Arena.

He also said the players in the Scotland squad will be eager to prove they have what it takes to get results and to compete at Euro 2024.

The Northern Ireland boss said he was looking forward to the game and further promised that his team will be ready for Scotland in what he believes will be another tough assignment for his players.

He also told media at the traditional eve of matchday press conference that he believes Scotland are “a very experienced team at international level” who have shown consistency in their performances over the past few years, noting that the bulk of Clarke’s squad operate in the Premier League and Championship in England.

“It will be a test for our young side. But these games are great for us. We have everything to gain in that is a team very much in its infancy playing against a very established team,” he added.

Defender Daniel Ballard has returned to the Northern Ireland fold after missing the trip to Romania to be at the birth of his first child.

O’Neill was hoping that two other absentees from the game in Bucharest, defender Jamal Lewis and winger Ross McCausland, would be available for the international challenge match in Glasgow (7.45 kick-off), however they are not yet ready to return to action and are continuing to receive treatment on injuries at their clubs.

Striker Dion Charles, who missed Friday’s game through injury after travelling with the squad to the Romanian capital, remains an injury doubt.

Scotland boss Clarke believes Northern Ireland will be tricky opponents at Hampden, although he is confident his team will give a good performance and register a positive result.

He told the media: "They are a young team, a progressive team. Michael is quite good at talking his team down, but they are very competitive. They don't lose games by a big margin."

Scotland’s most experienced outfield player is Liverpool full back Andy Robertson, who has 68 caps under his belt. Following closely behind is Aston Villa midfielder John McGinn on 63 caps. McGinn has scored 18 goals during his international career.

Several members of Clarke’s squad have 40-plus caps, including Manchester United midfielder Scott McTominay (48), Bournemouth midfielder Ryan Christie (46) as well as defender Kieran Tierney (42), who is currently on loan at La Liga side Real Sociedad from Arsenal.

And Southampton midfielder Stuart Armstrong will reach the 50-cap milestone if he makes an appearance for his country tonight.

The most experienced player in the Scotland squad is Heart of Midlothian goalkeeper Craig Gordon. The 41-year-old has 74 caps to date.