N Ireland to play Panama and Costa Rica in friendly games

NI skipper Steven Davis
NI captain Steven Davis earned his 100th cap against Switzerland in November

Northern Ireland are to play Panama and Costa Rica in friendly games next year.

It will be the first time that NI has faced either country, who have both qualified for the 2018 World Cup in Russia next summer.

Northern Ireland will take on Panama in Panama City on Tuesday 29 May, before facing Costa Rica on Sunday 3 June in San Jose.

Panama, ranked 55th in the world, will be World Cup debutants, while Costa Rica lie 26th in the Fifa standings.

Panama have been drawn in a group with England, Belgium and Tunisia, with Costa Rica preparing to face Serbia, Brazil and Switzerland.

Northern Ireland's match against Panama will be played in the Stadio Rommel Fernandez, while the game against Costa Rica will take place in Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica.

Kick-off times will be confirmed in the new year.

"These are exciting games and are fixtures that we are looking forward to. In 2014 we travelled to South America to play Uruguay and Chile and those matches were hugely beneficial to us ahead of the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign," said NI manager Michael O'Neill.

"Playing in Central America will be a new experience for everyone involved and while we will enjoy that aspect of the tour, most importantly we will be using the matches to give us solid preparation for the Uefa Nations League and Euro 2020 qualifying."

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