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Wednesday 29 May 2024
Northern Ireland Women ‘excited’ to face Portugal, says Oxtoby

Northern Ireland senior women’s team manager Tanya Oxtoby believes her players are “in a good place” ahead of the tough double header against Portugal.

Her team are due to face the Portuguese in a UEFA Women’s Euro 2025 qualifier in Leiria on Friday (31 May) and again next Tuesday (4 June) in Lurgan.

She said: “We have had a really good couple of days training in Portugal. It’s been nice to get everyone back together again, and the girls have been fantastic.

“Obviously we know the challenge ahead. Portugal are going to be a really tough test for us but we are excited by that.

“As we have said before, we are a group that is in transition. We still have experienced players but we also have a lot of exciting youth coming through. The games against Portugal will provide a great opportunity to test ourselves and help the squad to continue to develop.”

Portugal are the top seeds in League B Group 3, while Northern Ireland are the third seeds. And the Portuguese are 21st in the FIFA Coca-Cola Women’s World Ranking compared to Northern Ireland in 46th.

Oxtoby insisted: “The pressure is not on us. Portugal are more than 20 places above us in the FIFA rankings, so I believe the pressure is squarely on them.

“We are going to go out and really enjoy the occasion (in Leiria) and try to put in a really good performance.”

The senior women’s team manager further revealed there are no injury concerns among the 23 players who have travelled to Portugal this week.

Midfielder Megan Bell had to withdraw from the squad last week due to a hamstring injury but all the other players, including her replacement Louise McDaniel, are in fine fettle according to Oxtoby.

Northern Ireland will face the Portuguese at Estádio Dr Magalhães Pessoa in Leiria, a city and municipality in the Central Region of Portugal which is part of the province of Beira Litoral.

The second match of the double header is being staged at Mourneview Park, home of Glenavon FC.

The senior women’s team registered a 0-0 home draw with Malta and a 3-1 away win against second seeds Bosnia and Herzegovina last month as they got their B3 campaign under way.