Despite losing to world champions Germany earlier today, Northern Ireland’s footballers have secured a place in the last 16 of the UEFA European Championship 2016. There they’ll face either France or Wales.
A heroic performance by NI’s freelance keeper, Michael McGovern, kept the ball out of the net on all but one occasion and the 1-0 win for Germany left Northern Ireland in third place in Group C on 3 points following their win over Ukraine. Crucially, though, they had a zero goal difference.
The best 4 third placed teams in the 6 groups progress to the last 16, along with the first and second placed in each.
Slovakia, on 4 points, already had one of the third placed berths.
Albania, also on 3 points, have a goal difference of -2 and are still in the hunt. But sit below Northern Ireland in the pecking order for the third placed slots.
Tonight, Turkey’s 2-0 win over the Czech Republic leaves Turkey on 3 points too. But having only scored twice tonight, their goal difference is only -2, guaranteeing Northern Ireland one of the remaining ‘best runner-up’ places.
Currently on 1 point from 2 matches, the Republic of Ireland will need to beat Italy tomorrow to join Northern Ireland, et al, in the knock-out stages.
Update The Republic of Ireland secure a 1-0 victory over Italy with a 84th minute header from Robbie Brady to progress with Northern Ireland into the last 16.
Northern Ireland will now play Wales in the next round, and the Republic of Ireland will play tournament hosts France.