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Dublin: 4 °C Saturday 14 December, 2019
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10 years to the day since they beat England, Northern Ireland can make history tonight

A lot has changed over the last decade.

NORTHERN IRELAND WILL hope to channel the heroics of this day ten years ago when they face Hungary tonight at Windsor Park knowing a victory will secure qualification for next summer’s European Championships.

David Healy secured one of their most famous victories on 7 September 2005 when he helped the hosts humble England in Belfast but three more qualifying points this evening would end a 30-year wait for Northern Ireland fans.

Source: OfficialIrishFA/YouTube

After Friday’s hard-earned triumph over the Faroe Islands, Michael O’Neill’s side are now on the cusp of history as they look to become the first Northern Ireland team to qualify for a European Championships.

It’s been a remarkable qualifying campaign for Northern Ireland as they sit top of Group F with three fixtures remaining.

A 2-1 victory in Budapest this time last year set them on their way and they can now complete the job against the same opposition in-front of a boisterous home crowd.

If they can secure a sixth win of the campaign, Northern Ireland will be heading to their first major tournament since the 1986 World Cup but O’Neill knows the importance of remaining patient.

“I hope the supporters stick with the team – simple as that. Believe in us, which I think they do,” he told The Belfast Telegraph.

“The players want to deliver for them. We know the sense of anticipation because of the amount of people coming up to talk to us about France and I really do believe we have all the characteristics to see the campaign out.

“I think it will be a fantastic tournament to be at and I think it would be fitting for our fans to be there.

“As always, the crowd at Windsor will be a big factor.

“We want it to be intense and to be intimidating, but equally, they have to understand that the team has to play with a patience and a clear head as well. We have to play on the front foot but not be reckless.”

Soccer - UEFA Euro 2016 - Qualifying - Group F - Faroe Islands v Northern Ireland - Torsvollur Kyle Lafferty has been central to Northern Ireland's success, scoring 6 goals throughout the campaign. Source: John Walton

It will also be O’Neill’s finest hour.

The former Shamrock Rovers manager’s reputation spiralled during his time at Tallaght as he guided the Hoops to the Europa League group stages but bringing Northern Ireland to France next summer will be his greatest achievement.

“I came into the squad as a player in 1988 and a lot of the guys who had been to two World Cups were still around and talking about it, that was a big factor.

“The likes of Mal Donaghy, Nigel Worthington, big Norman Whiteside. What qualification will mean now is that this generation of players can be remembered like that.

“I think qualification will lift Northern Ireland football in general by huge amounts. It will lift Northern Ireland as a nation by huge amounts as well.”

Kick-off is at 7.45pm and the game is live on Sky Sports.

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Ryan Bailey

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