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Stephen Kenny's Ireland to face Belgium in March friendly international

Roberto Martinez’ side are currently ranked at the top of the Fifa world rankings.

Image: Evan Treacy/INPHO

Updated Jan 25th 2022, 3:32 PM

STEPHEN KENNY’S IRELAND will face Belgium in an international friendly on Saturday, 26 March. 

Stephen Kenny and his Irish squad have been targeting at least one high-profile opponent for the March international window, to coincide with the FAI’s centenary celebrations. 

Reported plans to host Italy were kiboshed by the Azzurri’s fall into the play-offs for World Cup qualification, but Roberto Martinez’ Belgium – currently ranked at number one in the Fifa World Rankings – will be the visitors to the Aviva Stadium on Saturday, 26 March. Kick-off time and ticket details have yet to be announced by the FAI. 

Ireland will then face Lithuania in another friendly at the Aviva Stadium on Tuesday, 29 March.

Speaking last year, Kenny said he sought high-profile opponents against whom Ireland could test themselves ahead of the Uefa Nations League in June, while the FAI’s coffers – so battered by the pandemic – would also benefit from a glamour friendly in a relatively lean year without a qualification campaign on the schedule. 

Ireland’s Nations League campaign begins with a home game against Ukraine on Saturday, 4 June. 

It will be a somewhat understrength Belgian side visiting Dublin, however, as it’s understood Roberto Martinez is limiting himself to a less experienced squad and is selecting players with 50 caps or fewer. 

This means the squad won’t feature Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard or Romelu Lukaku, but could include Thorgan Hazard of Borussia Dortmund, Leicester’s Youri Tielemans and Jeremy Doku of Rennes. 

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The previous meeting between the sides was the one-sided clash in the group stages of Euro 2016, which Belgium won 3-0. 

The last time Ireland faced Lithuania was in qualifying for the 1998 World Cup 

The FAI have also confirmed Ireland will play another two friendly matches in the November window, with one of them set to be in Dublin. 

 Updated at 15.36 with confirmation of the fixtures 

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Gavin Cooney

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