You know how they speak about international football being far more about having one superstar in your team, in order to prevail?
Well, this superstar in question only has a handful of caps and he’s likely going to become one of the most expensive players in world football when he eventually moves on from him current powerhouse.
But that’s enough about Sunderland’s Tom Flanagan.
Northern Ireland now face the daunting task of travelling (daunting enough in the current climate by itself) to Norway for a UEFA Nations League tie against a side that stuck five past them in Belfast.
It’s not an aggregate scoreline of course, so they hardly count – but they may as well when you consider the mentality of a team on their travels, in the third leg of an elongated international break that’s put world football into disarray, which faces the prospect of shutting down Erling Haaland.
Given the primary target of this window has been met, it seems as though this fixture is more of a hindrance than it is a challenge, and with tired legs and a lack of depth, Northern Ireland could be in for a long night.
Here’s three of the very best ahead of Wednesday night’s showdown.
This is obviously only a runner if he plays, but if he does, against a disinterested backline that got schooled by the bloke born this side of the millennium not so long ago, it looks a big price doesn’t it?
Northern Ireland snuck past Bosnia and Herzegovina on penalties, while Norway were outclassed by Serbia last time out. One of these two teams has something to prove, and while that might not necessarily result in Northern Ireland fielding a second-string back line, it’s fairly clear that even their starters can’t handle the Dortmund marksman.
At the double? At least.
Oh yes please.
It’s not as if Ian Baraclough’s intent is overly aggressive from the off, and while he’s got this fixture to spare in a way – the relegation from League B will ultimately come down to head-to-head with Romania – he may as well try to soak up some pressure in a game-like environment against top-end attacking talent.
It’s not often you get a dress rehearsal that’s above training tempo, so don’t be surprised, especially as it’s away from home, to see Baraclough set his charges the task of limiting chances rather than creating them.
These games take some getting into. I mean that with the utmost respect, too – but as soon as Northern Ireland show their hand, Norway will realise they don’t have to go into overdrive to force possession and can switch play time and time again without being challenged.
They’ll expect a goal or two will come as the game wears on, and they’re probably right. The opening 45 of this probably won’t be the best excuse to hide away from the rest of your family, but it should land you a few quid if my gut is right.
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Norway v Northern Ireland Nations League bet summary – Wednesday, October 14
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