Iain Dowie urges Michael O’Neill’s emerging stars to seize their opportunity

Young Liverpool defender Ryan McLaughlin
Young Liverpool defender Ryan McLaughlin

Iain Dowie believes Northern Ireland’s youngsters have nothing to lose and everything to gain when they take on Uruguay on Friday night.

Michael O’Neill’s fledgling squad faces a formidable challenge against England’s World Cup rivals.

Luis Suarez may be missing as he recovers from knee surgery, but there are plenty of other threats posed by Oscar Tabrez’s side.

Uruguay – ranked sixth in the world – will look to Friday’s friendly at the Estadio Centenario in Montevideo as vital preparation for this summer’s World Cup finals.

For Northern Ireland boss O’Neill, it is an opportunity to assess the country’s emerging talent ahead of the forthcoming Euro qualifiers.

And former striker Dowie believes the young-guns should seize their chance in the South American tour.

“As a player, you can gain so much from facing a team of Uruguay’s quality,” Dowie said.

“It will be a huge challenge playing them in their own backyard, but also a great experience.

“Michael has had to name an experimental squad and that makes it tough. It is difficult going to Uruguay without some of your key players.

“But those players who are there, particularly the younger ones, will benefit a lot from the game.”

O’Neill has been forced to turn to some of his younger players for the tour of South America.

Northern Ireland play Uruguay on Friday followed by another stern test against Chile five days later.

Experienced personnel including Jonny Evans, Chris Brunt, Kyle Lafferty, Martin Paterson, Jamie Ward, Alex Bruce, Craig Cathcart and Gareth McAuley are all missing for the trip.

Rookies including Fulham youngster Liam Donnelly, Liverpool starlet Ryan McLaughlin, Doncaster defender Luke McCullough and Dundee United striker Paul Paton are all uncapped.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity for a number of players to make a positive impression,” Dowie added.

“Uruguay and Chile are going to the World Cup and they’re both ranked in the world’d top 15, so both games will have a higher tempo than end-of-season friendlies.

“Who wouldn’t want to play Uruguay and Chile a couple of weeks out from the World Cup? Yes, it will be tough, but it’s also a great chance for some of our younger players to pit their wits against some of the best players in the world.

“It’s a positive for Michael that he’ll have the players for 10 days to work on drills, set-pieces and patterns of play,” he said.

“You don’t normally get time with players when you meet up normally as an international manager, so that time together can be invaluable.

“Michael will have one eye on the Euro 2016 qualifiers in September. We had a very disappointing World Cup campaign, but we have to bounce back.

“There is enough talent in the squad to do better.”