Women's European Championship Qualifying - Group C
N Ireland WomNorthern Ireland5Faroe Islands WomenFaroe Islands Women1

Euro 2022: Northern Ireland book play-offs berth with 5-1 win over Faroe Islands

By Mark SterlingBBC Sport NI at Seaview
Northern Ireland book play-off spot with victory over Faroe Islands

Northern Ireland recovered superbly from an early setback to beat the Faroe Islands 5-1 and keep their history-making Euro 2022 dream alive.

The win secured the play-off that gives Northern Ireland the chance to qualify for a first major women's tournament.

Rachel Furness scored twice with Chloe McCarron and the McGuinness sisters - Kirsty and Caitlin - also on target.

Victory saw Kenny Shiels' side clinch second place in Group C on a momentous night in north Belfast.

Jensa Kannuberg Torolvsdottir put the visitors ahead but Furness quickly levelled as the home side took control.

It was a fourth consecutive qualifying victory for a confident Northern Ireland team, who can now look forward to a two-legged play-off next spring for a place in the 2022 finals in England.

The fact there were no supporters in the north Belfast stadium did not stop fantastic scenes of celebration on the pitch at the final whistle between the Northern Ireland players, coaching staff and officials.

Having taken two points from their opening four games before the coronavirus outbreak, Northern Ireland knew they had to win all four remaining matches to have a chance of reaching the play-offs - and they did just that.

It means a country that has never been close to reaching a major women's tournament before could be just two matches from creating history and giving the women's game in Northern Ireland the biggest lift it has ever had.

Kirsty McGuinness celebrates after putting Northern Ireland 2-1 up at Seaview
Kirsty McGuinness put Northern Ireland with a magnificent strike after the visitors had taken a shock lead at Seaview

McGuinness and Furness lead recovery

Northern Ireland went into the match as strong favourites but they were stunned by a fourth-minute opener from the inexperienced visitors, with Kara Djurhuus's shot deflecting off Julie Nelson and into the path of Torolvsdottir, who swept home from close range.

Northern Ireland were level within two minutes. Kirsty McGuinness played a short corner to McCarron. Her cross found Furness, with the Liverpool striker finding the net with a header that looked like it may have deflected off team-mate Ashley Hutton.

The home side's second goal was a beautiful strike from McGuinness, who was also on target in the win over Belarus on Friday. A good run and pass by Wade set the Sion Swifts winger up and, after threatening to shoot with her left, she cut inside and found the far corner of the net with a curling right-foot effort.

Northern Ireland's third 11 minutes after the break was even better, impressive midfielder McCarron picking up the ball and unleashing a dipping shot from 25 yards that gave the visiting goalkeeper no chance.

There was further history made with the fourth on 77 minutes when 19-year-old substitute Caitlin McGuinness finished well to mark the first time she and prolific older sister Kirsty had been on the pitch together for Northern Ireland.

Furness, a constant threat throughout after scoring a penalty against Belarus in the previous game, claimed her second three minutes from time thanks to a major deflection off defender Jacoba Langgaard which diverted her back-post effort in.

Senior players star on watershed night

McGuinness sisters say NI squad "like family" as they book play-off spot

Shiels said in the build-up to this match that a chance to reach a play-off for a major tournament was "payback" for a group of senior players who have been faithful servants to the Northern Ireland women's team.

Stalwarts such as Julie Nelson, Hutton and Furness have suffered numerous unsuccessful qualifying campaigns during their 15-year international careers and, along with captain Marissa Callaghan, they will have savoured this win as much as anyone.

In particular, Nelson was superb in a back three alongside Ashley Hutton and Sarah McFadden, who replaced the injured Demi Vance, as they provided a strong platform for the side to play the expansive style that their manager demands.

Nelson, well used to the Seaview pitch as a Crusaders player, continually brought the ball out from the back before delivering searching passes forward, with the diagonal ball to McGuinness on the left particularly effective.

Furness was full of running throughout and, added to her ability to find pockets of space in front of the visitors' back four, she well deserved to claim two goals even if deflections played a part in both.

Manager Kenny Shiels (right) and son Dean, who is the squad's coach, shout out instructions to the Northern Ireland players in Tuesday's game
Kenny Shiels and his son Dean have instilled belief in the Northern Ireland players

Shiels integral to NI's new-found confidence

Shiels was perhaps a surprise choice when he was appointed manager in May 2019, taking over when Alfie Wylie stepped down after a 15-year spell at the helm.

Having won trophies in Scotland, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, his managerial pedigree was strong, but the former Kilmarnock boss' three-year reign at Derry City had ended with the sack seven months earlier.

He said from the outset he wanted to introduce an attacking, progressive style of play and, even after 6-0 defeats by Norway in two of his first three matches, he was confident the squad had the ability to deliver.

Working with a squad packed with Irish Premiership players, he spent the time on the training pitch after lockdown wisely, with many members of the squad reflecting in recent weeks on the positivity and belief he has instilled in them.

Credit must also go to his son, Dean, who Shiels brought in as a coach, with the former Northern Ireland striker taking a leading role in training sessions and helping to implement the forward-thinking strategy favoured by his father.

The manager could often be heard instructing his players to keep the ball moving more quickly, and whatever he was saying worked as his side ran out fantastic winners on a historic night.

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Scores, Results & Fixtures

Tuesday 1st December 2020

As It Stood

A

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Netherlands1010004834530
2Russia108022361724
3Slovenia Women950422121015
4Kosovo Women10316629-2310
5Turkey Women10127928-195
6Estonia Women9018131-301

B

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Denmark109104814728
2Italy97112552022
3Bos-Herze Wom106041917218
4Malta Women103161130-1910
5Israel Women92161018-87
6Georgia Women100010345-420

C

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Norway66003413318
2N Ireland Wom84221717014
3Wales84221641214
4Belarus Women72051115-46
5Faroe Islands Women7007142-410

D

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Spain65103213116
2Czech Rep Wom85122491516
3Poland Women74211621414
4Moldova Women7106342-393
5Azerbaijan Women6006122-210

E

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Finland Women65101821616
2Portugal651081716
3Scotland6303163139
4Albania Women8206721-146
5Cyprus Women6006022-220

F

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Sweden87104023822
2Iceland86112552019
3Slovakia Women8314719-1210
4Hungary Women82151120-97
5Latvia Women8008239-370

G

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1France87104404422
2Austria86112231919
3Serbia Women84042112912
4North Macedonia Women8206839-316
5Kazakhstan Women8008243-410

H

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Belgium87013753221
2Switzerland86112061419
3Romania Women73041216-49
4Croatia Women7214718-117
5Lithuania Women8008132-310

I

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Germany88004614524
2Ukraine Women85031621-515
3R. of Ireland Wom84131110113
4Greece Women8215621-157
5Montenegro Women8008228-260
View full Women's European Championship Qualifying tables

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