Northern Ireland currently lie in 109th place in the FIFA rankings but will relish a competitive fixture against a Portugal side whom they have held a respectable record against in recent years. Northern Ireland have little chance of qualification from group F with just four matches remaining especially as Russia (who lie in second place) have just Luxemburg (twice), Israel and Azerbaijan yet to play. Portugal have not beaten Northern Ireland in a competitive fixture since 1997, and the British side will be hoping that the loss of Aaron Hughes, Ryan McGivern & Craig Cathcart will not prove too costly.
Portugal on the other hand lie unsurprisingly at the top of group F. The team have lost just once in qualification in an away match to Russia and look set to be destined for the World Cup in Rio. A rejuvenated Helder Postiga has been fantastic in qualification and has eclipsed Captain Cristiano Ronaldo by scoring five goals (more than the opponents have managed all together). Postiga earned a move to La Liga giants Valencia and his fine run of form has continued with three goals in three games so far this season. Portugal have played a game more than their closest rivals Russia and will be hoping for a relatively routine win at Windsor Park to remain at the top of the Group F standings and further enhance their qualification chances.
KICK-OFF: Friday, 7.45pm
PAST THREE MEETINGS…
Portugal 1 (Postiga 79’) Northern Ireland 1(McGinn 30’), World Cup Qualifier, October 2012
Portugal 1 (Stephen Craigan OG) Northern Ireland 1(Warren Feeney), International, November 2005
Portugal 1 (Sérgio Conceição) Northern Ireland 0, World Cup Qualifier, October 1997
- Northern Ireland currently lie 102 places below Russia according to the FIFA rankings.
- Northern Ireland have scored just four times in six matches.
- Northern Irelands highest attendance in qualification is 12,372 compared to Portugal’s 54,697
Northern Ireland to win: 13
Portugal to win: 1.36
TV: Highlights on BBC 1 at 23:05