Northern Ireland v Belarus: Major talking points ahead of Euro 2020 qualifying match at Windsor Park

Northern Ireland's Gareth McAuley leads his teammates  during training
Northern Ireland's Gareth McAuley leads his teammates during training

After beating Estonia in their opening Euro 2020 qualifier Northern Ireland will aim to double up when they face Belarus at Windsor Park on Sunday evening.

Michael O’Neill’s side made an ideal start in Group C by recording their first competitive win in almost two years with a 2-0 victory over the Estonians.

Here we look at five talking points around Thursday’s game.

JOB HALF DONE

Beating Estonia on Thursday did nothing to change the outlook for Sunday’s game. Six points was always the minimum requirement for the week given Northern Ireland’s fixture list begins with the two most winnable matches of all. The reverse fixtures come in June but Northern Ireland will need points on the board before facing Holland and Germany home and away later in the year.

HAPPY MEMORIES

The last time Northern Ireland faced Belarus was in their final home game before heading off to Euro 2016 - a reminder of the prize on offer in the current campaign. In front of a raucous crowd, Michael O’Neill’s men recorded a 3-0 win with goals from Kyle Lafferty, Conor Washington and Will Grigg.

WARNING FROM KAZAKHSTAN

Scotland’s 3-0 loss to Kazakhstan on Thursday night was a result noted by O’Neill, who has warned his players they cannot overlook the so-called lesser sides in the group. “We were a pot four or pot five team ourselves not so long ago,” he said. “Though the teams are ranked you can’t underestimate any of the teams and certainly we’ve never been in that position.”

PATIENCE NEEDED

Northern Ireland may be strong favourites to take the three points, but Jonny Evans warned they must be prepared to be patient again. It took them 56 minutes to break the deadlock against Estonia, and both O’Neill and the players have said they expect Belarus to offer a very different challenge when it comes to breaking them down at the back. “We’ve got to be patient and wait for the right opportunities,” Evans said. “If it takes us 60 or 70 minutes to get the first goal, that’s what has to be done.”