Euro 2022: Boss Kenny Shiels laments lack of warm-up games as NI prepare for Belgium friendly

Belgium 'a great team who like to play football'
Euro 2022 warm-up match: Belgium v Northern Ireland
Venue: Herman Vanderpoortenstadion, Lier Date: Thursday, 23 June Kick-off: 19:00 BST
Coverage: Live stream and text updates on the BBC Sport website.

Northern Ireland manager Kenny Shiels says only having one Euro 2022 warm-up match is a "missed opportunity'.

Most sides in the tournament are playing three friendlies in preparation but Shiels has just Thursday's game against Belgium in Lier.

"We would have really loved to have had the same as the other teams," he said.

"We missed a good opportunity to get some conditioning. We've made progress but you're always wanting more."

Northern Ireland beat Ukraine in a play-off to clinch a first appearance in a major tournament and they take on Norway at St Mary's Stadium on 7 July before games against Austria and hosts England.

Austria and England were also the opposition when Northern Ireland were last in action in April and Shiels fears his team could be a bit rusty for the opener in Southampton.

'Two steps forward, one back'

"I don't know the reasons but it would have been great to play Wales, Republic of Ireland and Scotland for example," added Shiels.

"Because they were all available, they hadn't qualified, it gave us the opportunity to get three really tough local games but we couldn't get any of them.

"From when we played Austria and England - that's the only two games we've had since November.

"That's a long haul to only play two games and some of them didn't play in them. Progress has been stuttered - it's two steps forward, one back."

Highlights: Northern Ireland 2-0 Ukraine

"You're going to get these little issues and little problems as you go along. It's how we cope with them and how we present ourselves on the pitch and I think we're going to give everything we have."

Belgium, ranked 19th in the world and 28 places above Northern Ireland, come into the game on the back of a warm-up defeat by England last week.

The focus for both teams is on Euro 2022 and securing a confidence-boosting display at Herman Vanderpoortenstadion before travelling to England.

"Belgium were unlucky to lose 3-0 because they matched England in a lot of areas," said Shiels.

"Our players have been out of match condition for a while, so we want to make sure that they get proper conditioning in a really competitive game.

"I want to add that little bit of match conditioning more so than top, top quality, but I'd like to have the quality as well.

"That will send a message to me that what we're doing is improving from when we played Austria and England."

Top Stories

Also in NI Sport