Women's World Cup 2019: Northern Ireland to play Republic in qualifiers

Northern Ireland's Marissa Callaghan in action against Georgia last year
Marissa Callaghan and her NI team-mates will face a very tough task in Group C

Northern Ireland's women will face the Republic of Ireland, 1995 winners Norway, the Netherlands and Slovakia in their 2019 World Cup group.

At 55th in the world rankings, Northern Ireland are Group C's bottom seeds.

Norway are ranked 11th, one place ahead of the Dutch, with the Republic in 32nd spot and Slovakia 41st.

Only the seven group winners will qualify automatically with the four best runners-up involved in a play-off for the one remaining European spot.

Qualifiers will take place between 11 September 2017 and 4 September 2018.

After being defeated by the USA in the 1991 World Cup final, Norway beat Germany in the 1995 final in Sweden.

Stephanie Roche
Stephanie Roche is one of the Republic of Ireland's best known players

Norway's fortunes have waned somewhat over the past 20 years but they have qualified for all seven World Cup tournaments and reached the last 16 in Canada two years ago before being beaten 2-1 by England.

Northern Ireland drew 0-0 with group opponents Slovakia in a friendly in early March.

In their most recent games earlier this month, the Northern Irish were beaten 3-1 in two away matches against Wales.

However, Alfie Wylie's side did defeat 38th-ranked Portugal in an away friendly in January.

The Republic of Ireland women's team made headlines earlier this month after the squad threatened to pull out of a friendly against Slovakia because of unhappiness over their treatment by the Football Association of Ireland.

The dispute, over resources and compensation for lost earnings while on international duty, was eventually resolved and the Republic played the game against Slovakia, winning 1-0 thanks to a Stephanie Roche goal.

Women's World Cup 2019 European qualifying draw:

Group 1: England, Russia, Wales, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Kazakhstan.

Group 2: Switzerland, Scotland, Poland, Belarus, Albania.

Group 3: Norway, Netherlands, Republic of Ireland, Slovakia, Northern Ireland.

Group 4: Sweden, Denmark, Ukraine, Hungary, Croatia.

Group 5: Germany, Iceland, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Faroe Islands.

Group 6: Italy, Belgium, Romania, Portugal, Moldova.

Group 7: Spain, Austria, Finland, Serbia, Israel.

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