Ian Baraclough insists the Northern Ireland squad will "stick together" and come back stronger for next month's Euro 2020 play-off semi-final following Monday's 5-1 thumping by Norway. 

Northern Ireland were soundly beaten by Lars Lagerback's side in their Nations League Group B1 game, the visitors cruising to victory thanks to Mohamed Elyounoussi's opener and braces from Alexander Sorloth and the hugely impressive Erling Haaland. 

Baraclough takes his side to Bosnia-Herzegovina on October 8 in what will be only his third game in charge of the national team and the 49-year-old is confident his players' confidence will withstand the humbling nature of Monday's defeat at Windsor Park. 

"We can't give away chances like that and we gave ourselves a mountain to climb," he told reporters. 

"We knew that we were going to be stretched in these two games. When you are not at your best you are at the risk of being punished.

"We didn't throw in the towel and we are a group that will stick together and we will be strong together.

"You can't say we didn't work hard. There are lots of aspects that we will brush up on, and that will come with more training under their belts and more games.

"They'll get that now when they go back to their clubs and the season will start now for many of them. When we get back together for Bosnia next month then we will be in a much stronger place as a squad."

Led by one of the world's most exciting young talents in Haaland, Norway were irrepressible in attack. Baraclough, though, thought they were helped by his own side's accommodating defending. 

"We've been done by two diagonal balls for the goals, and they are little things that don't happen when players are up to speed, into their stride and playing games regularly for their clubs," he added.

"We gave them far too much space in those situations and that is something that we have to take on the chin."

Erling Haaland scored a stunning brace as Norway cruised past Northern Ireland 5-1 in their Nations League Group B1 game at Windsor Park. 

In a frantic opening, Mohamed Elyounoussi handed Lars Lagerback's side a second-minute lead before Paddy McNair levelled after six minutes. 

Haaland then fired home a wonderful side-footed half-volley from 20 yards just 67 seconds later before Alexander Sorloth added a third before the midway point of the first half. 

Sorloth grabbed a second shortly after the interval, before another fine strike from Haaland after 58 minutes sealed a comprehensive defeat for Ian Baraclough in his first home game in charge of Northern Ireland.

Norway wasted little time signalling their intentions, taking the lead after just 102 seconds courtesy of Elyounoussi's superb chest control and volley from Stefan Johansen's lofted ball to the back post. 

The hosts roared back only four minutes later when McNair stroked into an empty net from eight yards after Rune Jarstein had pawed away Conor Washington's effort. 

Haaland promptly restored Norway's lead, though, the Borussia Dortmund striker whipping into Bailey Peacock-Farrell's right-hand post from outside the penalty area.

They extended their advantage after 19 minutes when Sorloth steered home Haitam Aleesami's wonderful left-wing cross at the back post.

Norway started the second half like they did the first, Sorloth stroking home from eight yards in the 47th minute after being selflessly teed up by Haaland, who had latched onto a long ball over the top.

Haaland then wrapped up the scoring 11 minutes later, sumptuously curling home from just inside the area after running onto Omar Elabdellaoui's headed pass.

 

What does it mean? Baraclough back to earth with a bump

Baraclough will have gone into this game with a spring in his step after kicking off his Northern Ireland tenure with a last-gasp draw against Romania on Friday, but the 49-year-old was given a harsh lesson in the realities of international football by a relentless Norway outfit. 

The hosts' defending was exceptionally poor and they looked bereft of ideas in attack. He has got his work cut out ahead of next month's Euro 2020 play-off semi-final against Bosnia-Herzegovina. 

Haaland's talent on full display 

The Dortmund man once again showed why he is one of world football's most exciting young talents. He was a constant handful for the home defence and gave Peacock-Farrell no chance with two unerring finishes. 

Cathcart endures a game to forget

The Watford defender was comprehensively outpaced by Haaland in the build-up to Norway's fourth and offered scant resistance for the other goals.

What's next?

Both sides are in Euro 2020 play-off semi-final action on October 8, Northern Ireland travelling to Bosnia-Herzegovina and Norway hosting Serbia.

Erling Haaland is on the same early career trajectory as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, according to Norway coach Lars Lagerback.

Haaland, 20, enjoyed a sensational breakout season in 2019-20, impressing for both Salzburg and then Borussia Dortmund after a January move.

The Norwegian striker scored 28 goals in 22 matches for Salzburg across all competitions, before adding 16 in 18 outings for BVB.

He was unable to help Dortmund to a first Bundesliga title since 2011-12 as Bayern Munich continued their dominance, but Haaland's swift adaptation provides optimism for the seasons to come – if they can keep hold of him.

Haaland's introduction to international football has seen him score once in three games, that strike coming in Friday's 2-1 defeat to Austria, and the experienced Lagerback believes his potential is almost limitless.

"I've maybe been around too long but I have never seen a guy since maybe Messi or Ronaldo that developed at such a young age," Lagerback said ahead of Monday's Nations League clash with Northern Ireland.

"That's very unique and he has all the possibilities to become a really world-class player – if you look at the offensive third of the pitch and in the box then he's already absolutely top class.

"He perhaps has a little bit more to do in the link play, but being so young, he's already at a really high level.

"With the qualities he already has and his focused personality – if he can stay free from injury then he can be a really top-class player."

Substitute Gavin Whyte scored late on to earn 10-man Northern Ireland a 1-1 Nations League draw against Romania in Ian Baraclough's first game in charge.

Baraclough officially took over as head coach in June after Michael O'Neill stepped aside and his tenure got off to a dramatic start at the National Arena on Friday.

George Puscas put Romania in front after 25 minutes and Josh Magennis was dismissed shortly before half-time to make the visitors' task all the more difficult.

But a string of impressive saves from Bailey Peacock-Farrell kept Northern Ireland in the game and Whyte headed in four minutes from time to earn his side a point in their Group B1 opener.

 

Northern Ireland have appointed Ian Baraclough as their new manager to succeed Michael O'Neill.

Baraclough, 49, has served as the country's Under-21 boss for the last three years.

His promotion to the senior role was confirmed on Saturday by the Irish Football Association.

O'Neill joined Championship side Stoke City in November 2019 after eight years in charge of Northern Ireland.

He initially combined the position with the national team job before stepping down in April this year.

O'Neill had hoped to lead the team into the Euro 2020 play-offs, but decided against carrying on when they were delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Baraclough will instead have that task, with Northern Ireland to play Bosnia-Herzegovina in the semi-finals on October 8.

The former Motherwell and Scunthorpe United manager's first game in charge will come before that, though, with an away fixture against Romania in the Nations League on September 4.

Stoke City manager Michael O'Neill has tested positive for COVID-19, the Championship club have announced.

The former Northern Ireland boss returned the adverse result during the sixth round of testing as England's second tier gears up to relaunch next week.

O'Neill, 50, had tested negative in the previous five rounds.

Confirming the news, Stoke said in a statement on Tuesday: "He will now follow the relevant guidance and undergo a period of isolation, whilst continuing to be in regular virtual contact with his coaching staff and players."

Assistant manager Billy McKinlay will take charge of Stoke's preparations to face Reading on June 20 as O'Neill stays away.

Following his appointment last November, with the Potters at the foot of the Championship table, O'Neill inspired a turnaround in fortunes to lift the team up to 17th place.

The threat of relegation remains, as Stoke sit three points better off than third-bottom Charlton Athletic with nine matches still to play.

Michael O'Neill has permanently left his role as Northern Ireland manager with immediate effect.

O'Neill was appointed Stoke City boss in November but pulled double duty to see out Northern Ireland's Euro 2020 qualifying campaign.

The 50-year-old was also due to oversee their play-off match against Bosnia-Herzegovina in March, with the winners then facing the Republic of Ireland or Slovakia, but the coronavirus pandemic saw that fixture postponed.

With UEFA suggesting at a teleconference on Tuesday the play-off games will be rescheduled for October, the decision has been taken for O'Neill – who was appointed in December 2011 – to leave now.

"After careful consideration and following discussions with the Irish FA, I feel it is only fair that now is the right time for me to step aside," he told the Irish Football Association's official website.

"I would have loved the opportunity to manage Northern Ireland in the Euro 2020 play-off game versus Bosnia-Herzegovina and the chance to qualify for another major tournament, but the current situation means that this is no longer possible.

"It was important to leave the association and team in the strongest possible shape in order to not only have the best chance of qualifying for Euro 2021, but allow the new manager time to build upon the success that we have had during my eight-year tenure."

Under O'Neill, Northern Ireland qualified for Euro 2016 where they were beaten 1-0 by Wales in the last 16.

"It has been an honour and an enormous privilege to have had the opportunity to manage my country and I will treasure my time as manager of Northern Ireland forever," he added.

"Throughout my time here, I have been fortunate to have worked with many great coaching, medical and support staff who have all contributed to our successes and shared in some great moments.

"As for my players, past and present, I would like to thank them all for an overwhelming level of commitment and professionalism that has helped to deliver so many unforgettable highs and great experiences for us all."

Bosnia-Herzegovina have called on UEFA to postpone their Euro 2020 play-off against Northern Ireland because of coronavirus worries.

The Football Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina (NFSBIH) has written to European football's governing body to outline its case for the March 26 game in Zenica to be called off.

It has told UEFA the spread of coronavirus in Bosnia-Herzegovina is becoming more serious, resulting in public events being banned, with entry to the country barred to citizens of countries including Italy, Germany, France and Spain.

Bosnians and Herzegovinians returning to their homeland from such countries face a 14-day quarantine period and self-isolation if they come from areas where COVID-19 has been detected.

With their squad spread across large parts of western Europe, the Bosnia-Herzegovina national team would be depleted.

"NFSBIH is asking once again that all the risks be considered that would arise in the event of this match," said the federation on its website.

On Wednesday, the NFSBIH said it had been told the Euro 2020 play-offs would not be postponed "due to the impossibility of setting new dates in the competition calendar".

The tournament is due to begin in June, with the March 26 play-off semi-finals involving 16 teams due to be followed by play-off finals five days later.

Bosnia-Herzegovina has cancelled all youth football in the country and said professional league matches will be played behind closed doors.

Bosnia-Herzegovina have called on UEFA to postpone their Euro 2020 play-off against Northern Ireland because of coronavirus worries.

The Football Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina (NFSBIH) has written to European football's governing body to outline its case for the March 26 game in Zenica to be called off.

It has told UEFA the spread of coronavirus in Bosnia-Herzegovina is becoming more serious, resulting in public events being banned, with entry to the country barred to citizens of countries including Italy, Germany, France and Spain.

Bosnians and Herzegovinians returning to their homeland from such countries face a 14-day quarantine period and self-isolation if they come from areas where COVID-19 has been detected.

With their squad spread across large parts of western Europe, the Bosnia-Herzegovina national team would be depleted.

"NFSBIH is asking once again that all the risks be considered that would arise in the event of this match," said the federation on its website.

On Wednesday, the NFSBIH said it had been told the Euro 2020 play-offs would not be postponed "due to the impossibility of setting new dates in the competition calendar".

The tournament is due to begin in June, with the March 26 play-off semi-finals involving 16 teams due to be followed by play-off finals five days later.

Bosnia-Herzegovina has cancelled all youth football in the country and said professional league matches will be played behind closed doors.

Scotland have been drawn against Israel in the Euro 2020 play-off semi-finals.

Aiming to reach their first major finals in 22 years, Steve Clarke's side will face Israel in a one-legged tie at Hampden Park on March 26.

The winner of that match will go on to face either Norway or Serbia in the Path C final five days later.

Scotland beat Israel 3-2 at Hampden Park last November en route to topping their Nations League group and Clarke is after a repeat result in four months' time.

"The draw is what it is," he told Sky Sports News. "I never get too carried away about who you are going to play. 

"It would been nice to repeat the home win, but the match will come with its own level of pressure, which we will have to embrace.

"Being at home is very important for us. I'm sure Hampden will be full, with the Tartan Army on the march. It's a great stadium when it's full, so if we start fast we can get them all behind us."

Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland are on course to meet in the Path B final, having been drawn away to Bosnia and Herzegovina and Slovakia respectively in the semis.

In Path A, Romania travel to Iceland and Bulgaria host Hungary, while Belarus are at Georgia and North Macedonia face Kosovo in Path D.

The four play-off winners will join the 20 teams that have already qualified for the finals, which will take place in 12 different cities next year.

Michael O'Neill insisted Northern Ireland's 6-1 thrashing by Germany on Tuesday will have "no bearing" on their Euro 2020 play-off.

Northern Ireland conceded six times in a qualifying match for the first time since 1949 (when they were defeated 9-2 by England) in what was a sobering loss to Joachim Low's team.

Serge Gnabry starred with a hat-trick for Germany, whose place at next year's showpiece tournament was already secured, with Leon Goretzka netting twice before Julian Brandt's injury-time goal.

O'Neill's side, who finished third in Group C, now find themselves in a one-legged play-off semi-final away to Bosnia-Herzegovina in March, with the winner to face either the Republic of Ireland or Slovakia.

"This game will have no bearing on the play-offs whatsoever," said O'Neill.

"Ultimately we were punished by the quality of the opposition. We are asking League One players to come and play against Champions League players."

It was the biggest competitive loss of his eight-year tenure for O'Neill, who will be in charge for the play-offs despite his appointment at Championship outfit Stoke City.

"You never want to get beaten 6-1 and it was tough in the second half particularly," he added.

O'Neill's team were defeated on both occasions by Bosnia-Herzegovina when the sides met in the Nations League last year, however the boss remains optimistic they can reach a second successive Euros.

"When the Bosnia game comes around in March we have to aim to have our key players fit," he said.

"We know what to expect in terms of the intimidation and it's a tight ground, but we will go into that game knowing that we can win."

O'Neill described Gnabry as "un-defendable" and the Bayern Munich player, who now has 14 goals for club and country this season, admitted he is revelling in his role as a striker having previously played as a winger.

"I have to try to give my best every game," said Gnabry, whose 13 goals in as many Germany games has only been bettered by the legendary Gerd Muller. 

"I am playing as a striker here, which I have enjoyed a lot. Scoring goals came easy to me as a youth player and it continues to work out here for me as well."

Low was pleased to see his team, who finished ahead of Netherlands as group winners and will now play their Euro 2020 group games in Munich, continue to press for more goals.

He said: "We enjoyed it very much. We have played a very consequential game. Even when we were up by two or three goals, we continued attacking. We can be very pleased.

"We did not get nervous after going behind, I have liked what I have seen very much. We were focused for the full 90 minutes and this makes me positive looking forward."

Serge Gnabry scored a hat-trick as Germany rallied to humble Northern Ireland 6-1 in Euro 2020 qualifying and secure top spot in Group C.

Michael Smith had given Northern Ireland a shock early lead on Tuesday, however Germany hit back in emphatic fashion with Leon Goretzka also grabbing a brace for the hosts before Julian Brandt's injury-time strike.

Gnabry's treble took his tally for 2019-20 to 14 goals for club and country as his fine start to the campaign continued with another clinical display. 

Having finished third in the group, Northern Ireland - on whom the result was harsh - must now wait for Friday's draw to discover who they will face in the Euro 2020 qualifying play-offs.

Germany were stunned in the seventh minute when Toni Kroos could only head George Saville's cross to the edge of his own area and Smith unleashed a stunning low strike into the bottom-left corner beyond the reach of Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

Germany were almost level five minutes later after Ilkay Gundogan struck the post and soon they had their goal as Gnabry controlled Jonas Hector's cross from the left before swivelling and firing clinically into the far corner from 12 yards out.

Hector was again the provider two minutes before the interval as Germany turned the contest on its head. 

His cross somehow evaded a crowd of bodies before the onrushing Goretzka made sufficient contact to send the ball agonisingly past Northern Ireland goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell and in off the post.

Within two minutes of the restart, Germany had a third as Lukas Klostermann found Gnabry, who again rifled home in clinical fashion.

Gnabry was celebrating his hat-trick just on the hour when he held off Tom Flanagan before drilling a low shot inside the far post. 

Germany added further gloss, with Goretzka firing in from the edge of the area in the 72nd minute before Brandt struck from the left side of the box in added time.

 

What does it mean? Germany starting to look their old selves

For Germany, it is starting to look a case of 'Crisis? What crisis?'. Seven wins from a possible eight and top spot in a group including Netherlands, and things appear to be starting to click together again for Joachim Low and his team after last year's World Cup disappointment. There was no shame in this defeat for Northern Ireland. They have every reason to go into the play-offs in buoyant mood after giving the big boys a run for their money.

Gnabry continues deadly form 

In his previous outing against British opponents – when club Bayern Munich faced Tottenham in the Champions League last month – Gnabry scored four times. On this occasion it was three. The former Arsenal man is a player reborn in the Bundesliga and looks one of Europe's hottest properties right now.

Smith's brilliant strike a silver lining for Irish

This was a night the Hearts defender will never forget after scoring the goal which put his team ahead against one of Europe's giants. What a goal it was as he demonstrated textbook technique to send a rasping low drive beyond Germany goalkeeper Ter Stegen. 

What's next?

The play-offs await Northern Ireland in March – they will discover their opponents in Friday's draw in Nyon. Boss Michael O'Neill will be in charge for those matches despite his appointment at Championship outfit Stoke City, yet the search for his successor begins now for the Irish Football Association (IFA). With their place already booked, Germany can now look forward to next year's showpiece tournament.

Joachim Low does not believe Germany can be considered the favourites to win Euro 2020, claiming England, Spain, France, Italy and Belgium are all ahead of his side.

Germany booked their place at next year's finals with a 4-0 win over Belarus on Saturday.

Their qualification follows a disappointing 2018 World Cup, when the defending champions slumped out in the group stage, and only avoiding relegation in the Nations League due to the competition being restructured.

Germany's squad has undergone a reshuffle over the past year, with Mats Hummels, Jerome Boateng and Thomas Muller no longer considered for selection, while Mesut Ozil retired from international football, alleging discrimination and disrespect by the German Football Association.

Low's side have won six out of seven qualifiers for Euro 2020, scoring 24 goals in the process, but the coach believes other sides are ahead in terms of their development heading into the tournament.

"I think, we can be satisfied with the year," Low told a news conference ahead of Tuesday's final qualifier against Northern Ireland.

"When it comes to the development as a whole, there are surely other nations who are ahead of us. England, Spain, France, Italy, Belgium - those teams had been forced into a big transformation before, because during the last big tournaments, like England for example, they exited early a few times.

"Therefore, those teams have been playing together for three, four years now. The same goes for Netherlands, who have had a well-adjusted team for three, four years.

"That's not the case for us at the moment, which is why I don't see us as the favourites for this tournament. But one thing is for sure, that we'll try everything, prepare well and that we want to reach the maximum during the tournament."

Low is still largely undecided on the squad he will be selecting for Euro 2020, with two likely candidates - Niklas Sule and Leroy Sane - currently out with long-term injuries.

"No idea. I don't know what it'll be next year," Low said.

"Yesterday some of the injured players were here with us. But then there are more players like Sule and Sane who are doing rehab, where we don't know how they're going to be.

"It's also important for me, in what shape players are in January, February or March. And then during the months to follow, who's able to play, who's in a good rhythm. There are certainly a couple of decisions which I can't answer today."

Toni Kroos believes Germany will have a better idea if they can compete for Euro 2020 glory after next March's international matches.

Joachim Low's side secured their place at next year's finals with a 4-0 win over Belarus on Saturday, in which Real Madrid star Kroos scored twice.

The midfielder said after the game that Germany could not consider themselves among the favourites to take Portugal's continental crown next year, given the lack of experience of some of their players.

However, speaking ahead of Tuesday's final qualifier against Northern Ireland, in which a win will ensure Germany finish top of Group C, Kroos claimed they will have a clearer idea of their ability to challenge after the first international break of next year.

"It's no surprise that we want to win the game. Of course, the chance to finish first in the group is a bit of extra motivation," he told reporters on Monday.

"We've got some good players who have had some minutes. In terms of a grade, I'd put the year between a B and a C, because it's nothing special that we've qualified.

"Several of the younger players have improved already. We've made some progress. The international games in March will be important again as we play against big nations.

"We'll have to wait and see how we perform at the Euros, but I have a good feeling about it."

Kroos partnered Joshua Kimmich at the heart of Germany's midfield in the win over Belarus and believes the Bayern Munich star can make a success of such a role for the national team in future.

"Jo can do both: he can make life difficult for our opponents and he's able to make smart decisions with the ball. The fact that we work well together wasn't a surprise to me," he said.

Ronald Koeman said it was a "fantastic" achievement by Netherlands to secure a place at Euro 2020.

A goalless draw with Northern Ireland in Belfast clinched a top-two finish in Group C qualifying for Netherlands, no matter how unspectacular their performance was at Windsor Park on Saturday.

Koeman was a key player in the Netherlands team that won Euro 88 in West Germany, but now he is pulling the strings from the touchline as head coach.

On a testing night, the one-time stylish centre-back admitted he settled for a stalemate before the end, which is why he introduced substitute defender Nathan Ake late on in place of striker Ryan Babel.

It did the job, as Netherlands reached their first tournament since the 2014 World Cup, having failed to qualify for Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup.

"As a team, we always want more and better, but we have achieved a great result by qualifying for the European Championship," Koeman told Dutch broadcaster NOS.

"We've done it in a group with great opponents like Germany and a tricky opponent like Northern Ireland. I also just want to say that it is fantastic that we have qualified."

Netherlands were unconvincing, and with Memphis Depay absent through injury they struggled to make an impression in attack.

Babel was perhaps their biggest threat, but that was only because Steven Berghuis did not look up to the task. Steven Davis missing a penalty for Northern Ireland was a blessed relief to the visitors.

Yet like his captain Virgil van Dijk, who expressed similar sentiments, Koeman was chiefly concerned about getting the job done.

The draw sufficed, and Koeman, who took on the Netherlands job in February 2018, said: "I am happy and proud of the team. I also think you can now forget how tonight's game went."

He admitted Netherlands "should have done more attacking-wise", but it did not appear to trouble him unduly. There is time to look for solutions now the Dutch are sure of their place at the 24-team tournament.

Midfielder Frenkie de Jong, who moved from Ajax to Barcelona in the close season, is relishing his first senior finals with Netherlands.

"We haven't played a final tournament for a while, so everyone is happy," De Jong told NOS. "We have taken a photo together and we are certainly happy that we made it. I don't think we should be too critical, but I feel we should have won here."

De Jong added: "We did too little with the ball; attacking-wise we could have done more. But we're going to the European Championship and that is the most important thing."

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