Kick-off: 1945, 23/03/2023
Stadium: Stadio Olimpico di San Marino
TV: Viaplay Sports
Northern Ireland have been handed the chance to get off to a flying start in Euro 2024 qualifying Group H when visiting San Marino.
With Denmark, Finland, Slovenia and Kazakhstan also in this pool, Michael O’Neill’s men can’t afford to slip up in Serravalle.
We don’t think they will and 23/20 for a routine away win by 1-0, 2-0 or 3-0 is our initial San Marino vs Northern Ireland prediction.
La Serenissima are world’s worst
San Marino are officially the worst team in international football at 211 in the FIFA rankings, compared to Northern Ireland at 54.
They have only ever won once, beating Liechtenstein 1–0 in an April 2004 friendly.
La Serenissima failed to pick up a point or score a goal against Estonia and Malta in last year’s Nations League pool.
To be fair, they weren’t disgraced, going down 4-0 at home to Estonia but only losing 2-0 twice and 1-0 in the other fixture away to Malta.
San Marino have twice faced Northern Ireland in World Cup qualifying groups, suffering 3-0 defeats in both home games and losing 4-0 each time they visited Belfast.
Ireland boss O’Neill recalled: “We’ve played in San Marino before in 2018 and though it was a sticky enough game, we won 3-0 in the end, but it’s never as straightforward as everyone thinks.
“San Marino will be hugely motivated to get a result. They don’t win many games so we have to prepare for it as we would for Germany or France. The game plan can be different but the focus is the same.
“It’s the first game of the campaign and we have to make sure we do everything properly, get the result and roll that into the second game against Finland.”
Looking at the 17/4 for a 3-0 away win here.
O’Neill excited by emerging talent
Northern Ireland qualified for Euro 2016 and came agonisingly close to reaching Euro 2020 after finishing third behind Germany and Netherlands in their group.
In the play-offs, they beat Bosnia and Herzegovina on penalties before losing 2-1 at home to Slovakia after extra-time.
The Green and White Army were also competitive in a World Cup pool, albeit as a distant third behind Switzerland and Italy.
Last year’s Nations League effort was not great, only picking up five points in a section featuring Greece, Kosovo and Cyprus.
Jonny Evans, Steven Davis, Stuart Dallas, Corry Evans and Liam Boyce are all injured, but O’Neill still has a decent blend of youth and experience.
“Those younger players do excite me,” declared the manager. “They’re in the infancy of their careers, trying to establish themselves as first-team players.
“I think we’ll ask a lot of a number of younger players throughout the campaign but we have to believe they are ready and are capable of being able to contribute, and I believe they are.”
San Marino tend to battle hard early on but invariably tire towards the end of each half.
That makes 11/10 for the visitors to score between 30:01 minutes and the interval worth adding to our San Marino vs Northern Ireland betting tips.
Saint Lucia 1-0 SAN MARINO
Greece 3-1 NORTHERN IRELAND – Shayne Lavery
Head-to-head: N Ireland 4-0 San Marino, San Marino 0-3 N Ireland, N Ireland 4-0 San Marino, San Marino 0-3 N Ireland
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