Put into context, Northern Ireland’s result in Romania was an outstanding result. Down a goal and down to ten men midway through the first half, they somehow managed to cling on and steal a late equaliser to leave Bucharest with a potentially vital point.
Norway, on the other hand, were outclassed by Austria in their opening fixture on Friday night, with manager Lars Lagerback admitting that the team is “not working” at the moment.
This is an excellent opportunity for Northern Ireland to inflict some pain on a wounded Norwegian side and give themselves a really good chance of surviving in the second tier of the Nations League.
Their success on Monday night seems to hinge on how well they can contain Josh King and Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland. Northern Ireland do not score a lot of goals and will be sternly tested by that potent front two on Monday night.
However, they proved on Friday that they are still quite able to repel superior opposition and Norway are not functioning like they would like to. Incidentally, Northern Ireland beat Norway 2-0 in their last meeting at Windsor Park during a 2018 World Cup qualifier.
Did we mention that Northern Ireland don’t score a lot of goals? The Green and White Army have built a reputation for grinding out slender wins since Michael O’Neill took the reins and they don’t appear to have changed much under Ian Baraclough.
They are a team that neither gets hammered nor inflicts hammerings on opposition teams and will probably have to keep a clean sheet on Monday if they do want to beat Norway, as it’s hard to see them scoring twice.
They managed three clean sheets in their eight Euro 2020 qualifiers last year, including one against Holland, and are more than capable of shutting Norway out on Monday.
Their knack for scoring crucial late goals, which was evident throughout last year’s qualifying campaign and surfaced again on Friday, may mean that this game remains scoreless until the dying moments.
Predicting a likely goalscorer for Northern Ireland is risky business; a defender is as likely to score from a set piece as a forward is to break through and slot a shot beyond the onrushing keeper.
However, Conor Washington is due a goal at international level and, in the absence of the suspended Josh Magennis, he will almost certainly lead the line on Monday night.
Washington scored when Northern Ireland beat Norway in 2017, slotting the ball beyond the onrushing keeper incidentally, and is a threat from set pieces.
He will have very few opportunities on Monday and will have to demonstrate that same prowess if this bet is to click.
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