European Championship
PolandPoland1Northern IrelandNorthern Ireland0

Poland 1-0 Northern Ireland

By Lyle JacksonBBC Sport in Nice

Northern Ireland's first match at a European Championship finals ended in defeat as Arkadiusz Milik gave Poland a 1-0 win in Nice.

Ajax star Milik slotted in after being picked out by Jakub Blaszczykowski early in the second half.

Poland had dominated the first half but were thwarted by some superb defending by Michael O'Neill's men.

Northern Ireland did not manage to get a decent effort on target and must now regroup to play Ukraine on Thursday.

Relive Poland 1-0 Northern Ireland as it happened

Michael O'Neill praises collective effort

Poland deserved the three points, the first time they have won an opening match at a Euro finals, inflicting a first defeat in 13 games on their Group C opponents.

Northern Ireland endured an anxious opening and must have been relieved to get to the break still on level terms - they have now conceded just one first-half goal in their last 21 matches.

But the mood changed when Milik, scorer of 24 for his club last season, took one touch before finding the net with a left-foot shot.

Northern Ireland's best hope was a well-worked free-kick which ended with skipper Steven Davis just failing to get in his shot.

Shots graphic
Poland (left) had a host of attempts at goal while Northern Ireland (right) had just one shot, which went wide

First night nerves?

Northern Ireland fans
Northern Ireland are competing at their first major tournament since the 1986 World Cup

More than 10,000 green-shirted fans travelled to Nice full of an optimism fired by their team's qualification and 12-match unbeaten run.

But that fantastic vocal support failed to inspire Northern Ireland, who struggled badly in the opening exchanges, letting Poland dominate.

And despite the significance of the match for O'Neill's side, it will not be one they will look back on with much pleasure.

On a positive note, they finished the match much better than they had started it, with substitute Washington providing support for sole striker Lafferty, while they also produced a determined defensive display to shackle Robert Lewandowski, one of Europe's leading strikers.

Setback for manager O'Neill

O'Neill looked crestfallen at the final whistle as his side failed to take any points from their first game.

But his team had not managed to keep enough possession and did not create sufficient chances.

O'Neill decided not to go with the expected 3-5-2 formation, and started with five at the back, switching to four for the second half.

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill
Northern Ireland failed to score for the second successive game

Now he must rally his tired players to take on Ukraine in their next match in Lyon on Thursday.

Realistically, Northern Ireland must win that one or face the prospect of having to beat world champions Germany in their final Group C fixture to have a chance of qualifying for the last 16.

That will mean a change of approach, and not letting their opponents dictate matters.

Man of the match - Bartosz Kapustka

Bartosz Kapustka
The teenager's pace caused Northern Ireland all sorts of problems. "Sense we'll see a lot of Kapustka in the coming years. Deliciously talented 19-year-old," tweeted former England captain Gary Lineker.

What they said

Northern Ireland captain Steven Davis, speaking to BBC Sport: "It's a disappointing evening. We have to braver on the ball but it's a real learning curve for us. We always knew it would be difficult but we weren't good enough."

Northern Ireland striker Kyle Lafferty, speaking to BBC Sport: "I think we were overawed. That was not the team that has got us here, we have lacked a lot of that today and have come away with no points.

"We knew it would be tough, but I think the whole performance was not a Northern Ireland performance and on Thursday we will go and put it right."

The stats you need to know...

  • Poland recorded their first win at the European Championship finals, after failing to win their previous six matches (D3 L3).
  • Northern Ireland have failed to win their last six matches at major tournaments (D2 L4).
  • Poland also recorded their first clean sheet in the competition.
  • Northern Ireland registered just two attempts at goal - the joint-lowest total by a team in a European Championships match since the finals expanded from four to eight teams in 1980.
  • Poland completed more passes against Northern Ireland than in any other previous Euros match (431).
  • Arkadiusz Milik (at 22 years 104 days) is the youngest goalscorer for Poland in European Championship finals history.

What's next?

Northern Ireland need a positive result when they face Ukraine in Lyon on Thursday (17:00 BST) while Poland take on Germany on the same day in Paris (20:00 BST).



Formation 4-4-1-1

  • 1Szczesny
  • 20PiszczekBooked at 89mins
  • 15Glik
  • 2Pazdan
  • 3Jedrzejczyk
  • 16BlaszczykowskiSubstituted forGrosickiat 80'minutes
  • 10Krychowiak
  • 5MaczynskiSubstituted forJodlowiecat 78'minutes
  • 21KapustkaBooked at 65minsSubstituted forPeszkoat 88'minutes
  • 7Milik
  • 9Lewandowski


  • 4Cionek
  • 6Jodlowiec
  • 8Linetty
  • 11Grosicki
  • 12Boruc
  • 13Stepinski
  • 14Wawrzyniak
  • 17Peszko
  • 18Salamon
  • 19Zielinski
  • 22Fabianski
  • 23Starzynski

Northern Ireland

Formation 3-5-1-1

  • 1McGovern
  • 20CathcartBooked at 69mins
  • 4McAuley
  • 5Evans
  • 2McLaughlin
  • 17McNairSubstituted forDallasat 45'minutes
  • 6BairdSubstituted forWardat 76'minutes
  • 16Norwood
  • 3FergusonSubstituted forWashingtonat 66'minutes
  • 8Davis
  • 10Lafferty


  • 7McGinn
  • 9Grigg
  • 11Washington
  • 12Carroll
  • 13Evans
  • 14Dallas
  • 15McCullough
  • 18Hughes
  • 19Ward
  • 21Magennis
  • 22Hodson
  • 23Mannus
Ovidiu Hategan

Match Stats

Home TeamPolandAway TeamNorthern Ireland
Shots on Target

Live Text

  1. Post update

    Match ends, Poland 1, Northern Ireland 0.

  2. Full Time

    Second Half ends, Poland 1, Northern Ireland 0.

  3. Post update

    Foul by Robert Lewandowski (Poland).

  4. Post update

    Jonny Evans (Northern Ireland) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  5. Post update

    Arkadiusz Milik (Poland) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

  6. Post update

    Foul by Oliver Norwood (Northern Ireland).

  7. Post update

    Delay over. They are ready to continue.

  8. Post update

    Delay in match Wojciech Szczesny (Poland) because of an injury.

  9. Post update

    Offside, Northern Ireland. Oliver Norwood tries a through ball, but Kyle Lafferty is caught offside.

  10. Booking

    Lukasz Piszczek (Poland) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

  11. Post update

    Foul by Lukasz Piszczek (Poland).

  12. Post update

    Stuart Dallas (Northern Ireland) wins a free kick on the left wing.

  13. Substitution

    Substitution, Poland. Slawomir Peszko replaces Bartosz Kapustka.

  14. Post update

    Attempt missed. Grzegorz Krychowiak (Poland) right footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by Tomasz Jodlowiec.

  15. Post update

    Foul by Robert Lewandowski (Poland).

  16. Post update

    Oliver Norwood (Northern Ireland) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

  17. Post update

    Attempt saved. Arkadiusz Milik (Poland) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the top centre of the goal.

  18. Post update

    Corner, Poland. Conceded by Jonny Evans.

  19. Post update

    Attempt blocked. Kamil Grosicki (Poland) right footed shot from the right side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Robert Lewandowski.

  20. Substitution

    Substitution, Poland. Kamil Grosicki replaces Jakub Blaszczykowski.

As It Stood




3Football Union of Russia10101101


3Northern Ireland100101-10


2Czech Rep00000000


3R. of Ireland00000000


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