Northern Ireland are also facing England and Austria in their current World Cup group and played Norway on the way to qualifying for Euro 2022Northern Ireland manager Kenny Shiels claimed hosts England were “celebrating” after being drawn against his side in the Euro 2022 Finals.
At 48th in Fifa’s ratings, Northern Ireland are the lowest ranked of the 16 Euros hopefuls and Shiels says the hosts view the game as a home banker.
“I know they were celebrating,” a smiling Shiels told BBC Sport NI.
“As soon as our name came out of the hat, all the English people were going ‘yes….there’s three points’.”
England to face NI at 2022 Women’s EurosFootball Daily podcast: Reaction to the Euro 2022 drawEuro 2022 draw as it happenedWhen it was put to him that the reaction in Manchester may have been because of the excitement generated by two home nations being in the same group, Shiels replied: “Maybe that’s why they were cheering but draw your own conclusions!”
With England and another of Northern Ireland’s current World Cup group opponents Austria also in Group A alongside Norway, Shiels already knows a lot about his side’s opposition next summer as they prepare for the country’s first major women’s finals.
All three Northern Ireland Group A games will take place at St Mary’s in Southampton with the opener against Norway on 7 July before they face Austria on 11 July prior to their concluding match with the hosts four days later.
‘It was like Christmas Day’ – Furness excited by NI’s Euros drawAs recently as last Saturday, England beat Northern Ireland 4-0 at Wembley, after Shiels’ side had held out for over an hour, while the Austrians snatched a 2-2 draw in Tuesday’s World Cup qualifier in Belfast thanks to an injury-time equaliser.
“I can’t believe how karma would do this. We’ve played two of them in the last five days on the week of the draw. It’s ironic and we played Norway (twice in Euro 2022 qualifying).”
Both games against Norway resulted in 6-0 wins for the two-time European champions although Northern Ireland regrouped magnificently to clinch an historic place in next summer’s finals.
With all his side’s Group A games in Southampton, Shiels said the July contests will offer Northern Ireland fans the perfect opportunity for a “dual purpose holiday”.
“We’re more associated with the northern cities like Liverpool and Manchester but having said that for people during the July fortnight (in Northern Ireland) next year, I think it’s a really good place to go, the south coast.
“I would think they’ll sell the place out. I’m sure they (Northern Ireland fans) would love to go to the south coast of England where the climate is pretty much in the hot period of the year in July.
“They can go to the beach and then they can come and watch us.”
AnalysisBBC Sport NI’s Andy Gray
While there may be something in Kenny Shiels’ remarks about English celebrations, I think most people had a chuckle when England, Northern Ireland and Austria were all drawn together for the finals next summer.
With the three sides currently battling for World Cup qualification, it puts added importance on April’s matches with NI travelling to Austria before hosting England in Belfast. Both games will be a perfect dress rehearsal for the Euros.
After being hit for six by Norway in two of Shiels’ first three games as boss, the opener at the Euros is the perfect platform to show how far NI have progressed throughout his tenure.
If anything, being drawn with Austria will give NI more hope that they can cause an upset after Tuesday’s 2-2 draw with the side ranked 27 places higher.
There is already an unflappable belief instilled by Shiels in his players, and the fact they can go toe-to-toe with a side of Austria’s calibre will fuel belief that they can do something special in Southampton next year.