Northern Ireland to play Qatar in Crewe friendly

Michael O'Neill hopes the Qatar game will be the perfect warm-up before facing Romania
Michael O'Neill hopes the Qatar game will be the ideal warm-up before facing Romania

Northern Ireland will take on 2022 World Cup hosts Qatar in a friendly at Crewe Alexandra on 31 May.

The fixture at Gresty Road in England will be used by Northern Ireland as preparation for the Euro 2016 qualifier against Romania in Belfast on 13 June.

"This match will help us retain our focus as a squad as we prepare for the crucial match against Romania," said Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill.

There has been controversy over Qatar's suitability to host the World Cup.

Qatar was awarded the 2022 tournament in 2010, and Fifa subsequently cleared it of corruption in the bidding process despite a series of allegations.

Northern Ireland's remaining Euro 2016 Group F qualifiers
Finland (home)Sunday, 29 March 2015
Romania (home)Saturday, 13 June 2015
Faroe Islands (away)Friday, 4 September 2015
Hungary (home)Monday, 7 September 2015
Greece (home)Thursday, 8 October 2015
Finland (away)Sunday, 11 October 2015

However, a Fifa taskforce has recommended that the tournament should take place in November and December because of summer temperatures in the Gulf state, which can exceed 40C.

June temperatures in Crewe average a slightly more manageable 19C.

Northern Ireland are also hoping to set up a friendly meeting with Wales as they attempt to hone their squad in the British off-season.

The current focus is on a friendly against Scotland at Hampden Park on 25 March followed by a European Championship qualifier with Finland at Windsor Park four days later.

O'Neill's team sit second in Group F after an impressive start to the campaign, with three victories in their four qualifiers.

The only defeat came against leaders Romania in November and Northern Ireland are well placed to secure a spot in next year's finals in France.