Kenny Shiels has admitted that Northern Ireland’s presence at the Women’s Euro this summer probably came too soon.
Shiels’ side have booked their ticket to the tournament in England, which kicks off next month, with a play-off victory over Ukraine to seal their first-ever qualification for a major event, but they are under no illusions about the task they face. .
Northern Ireland have been drawn into a group with hosts Austria and Norway, three teams who their coach says will have a say in the final stages of the competition.
He said: “We probably reached those finals too early in terms of preparation, but we’ll see because hopefully the girls can contradict that and get a result against Norway and get a result against Austria as well. “
Shiels’ side, ranked 47th by FIFA, will face 19th-placed Belgium in a friendly in Antwerp on Thursday night in their only warm-up match – he had hoped to stage three – after watching the Belgians lose 3- 0 against England. at Molineux last week.
Asked what he learned from that encounter, Shiels said, “We learned that they are better than us. But these are good criteria.
“You can see how good England are, the best team in the world, the best players in the world, so you expect them to win it.
“I think everyone expects England to win the Euros and you’re probably looking at Norway as a potential finalist, so I think if you asked people in women’s football, ‘Can you predict the final? ?’, two of them will probably come from our group.
“But we don’t look at that. I’m not versed in talking about who will win, I just want to do my best for my country so that the players have experience, happiness, everything.
“We’ve been deprived of the happy things in our lives for the last couple of years – you don’t need me explaining what they are with the pandemic and all that and the rising fuel and cost of living.
“I just want people to be happy and I’m able to try to influence that.”
Shiels will name his squad for the final on Monday, by which time he will need to have made up his mind on his lingering fitness doubts, including skipper Marissa Callaghan.
He met his players after finding themselves at the center of controversy the last time they were together.
Her assertion after the 5-0 World Cup qualifying loss to England in Belfast in April that women’s teams tend to concede goals in clusters because the female players are ‘more emotional than the males’ was strongly condemned, although he quickly received support from his players.
Shields, who later apologized, insisted his comments were misinterpreted.
He said: ‘Sometimes people in your profession can intentionally misinterpret, and that’s exactly what happened.
“But I won’t go back. We are looking to see how we can do in the Euros.