Valter Birsa compares Northern Ireland to World Cup qualifying rivals Scotland

Slovenia's Valter Birsa
Slovenia's Valter Birsa

Slovenia’s Valter Birsa views the friendly with Northern Ireland in Belfast as an ideal test for their World Cup qualifiers with Scotland.

The Chievo winger drew parallels between Monday’s opponents and the Scots who, along with England, are in Slovenia’s qualifying group for the tournament in Russia in 2018.

Unlike Northern Ireland, Slovenia are not using their friendly as a warm-up for Euro 2016 having finished third in a group that unbeaten England topped before they lost a two-legged play-off against Ukraine.

However, Birsa believes the exercise will instead serve as an indication of what they can expect from Gordon Strachan’s side in the next campaign.

Slovenia defeated Macedonia last week, and Birsa said: “We need to play a similar match as far as being aggressive on the field.

“The Northern Irish team has this specific style of play which is in a way similar to the Scottish team. It is good for us because of the upcoming qualifiers.”

The hosts are unlikely to face a direct style at Windsor Park when they attempt to set a new record by going 10 games unbeaten.

Birsa admits the aerial strengths of the hosts’ centre-backs would make such a tactic frivolous.

“Northern Ireland have a lot of tall players at the back so it will be wise to play a short passing game and try to get in as many good positions as possible to score from there,” he added.

“The match is going to be a good test for the upcoming qualifiers. Since we have a lot of new players here this is going to be a good match to see how they can help in the qualifiers.”