Nations League: Northern Ireland drawn against Romania, Norway and Austria

Northern Ireland's Liam Boyce is about to be challenge by Austria's Martin Hinteregger in the 2018 Nations League game at Windsor Park
Northern Ireland lost home and away against Austria in the inaugural Nations League in late 2018

Northern Ireland will begin their Nations League campaign away to Romania on Friday 4 September.

Three days later they will host Norway in their first home fixture of League B Group 1, before welcoming Austria to Belfast a month later.

Away trips to both sides will follow before they finish the campaign in Belfast against Romania on 17 November.

Meanwhile the Republic of Ireland are up against Wales, Bulgaria and Finland.

The draw will bring back memories for Northern Ireland's more senior fans of the 1986 World Cup qualifying campaign.

A Jimmy Quinn goal earned a 1-0 win for Northern Ireland in Bucharest which helped them secure a place in Mexico.

Northern Ireland's Nations League 2020/21 fixtures
Romania (A)Friday 4 September
Norway (H)Monday 7 September
Austria (H)Thursday 8 October
Norway (A)Sunday 11 October
Austria (A)Saturday 14 November
Romania (H)Tuesday 17 November

Northern Ireland lost home and away to Austria in the inaugural Nations League which took place in late 2018.

Of the three nations in Group B1, Austria are the top-ranked side at 26th in the Fifa standings with Northern Ireland's 36th putting them one place ahead of Romania and Norway, meanwhile, in 44th spot.

The group matches in the competition which provides a potential back door to qualification for the 2022 World Cup will be played between September and November this year.

The two highest-ranked Nations League group winners who do not either win their World Cup qualifying group or finish as runners-up will enter a 12-team play-off to secure the final three European places at the finals in Qatar.

A difficult draw admits Irish FA chief

Irish Football Association chief executive Patrick Nelson said Northern Ireland had been handed a difficult draw.

"We're in with some strong opposition," he said.

"We have faced all of these teams in fairly recent history, Romania en route to our Euro 2016 adventure, Norway in the 2018 World Cup campaign and Austria in the inaugural Nations League tournament."

"I hope we start the campaign on the back of a summer being involved in Euro 2020, which remains our number one priority."

Northern Ireland face Bosnia-Herzegovina in their Euro 2020 play-off semi-final in Zenica on 26 March and victory in that game would see them hosting either the Republic of Ireland or Slovakia five days later with a place in this summer's finals up for grabs.

Mick McCarthy's Republic of Ireland tenure will end when the country's involvement in Euro 2020 concludes
Mick McCarthy will not be in charge of the Republic of Ireland when the Nations League starts in September

Republic renew hostilities with Wales

Wales beat the Republic home and away in the inaugural Nations League with a thumping 4-1 victory in Cardiff followed by a 1-0 win in Dublin.

A year earlier, a James McClean goal earned the Republic a 1-0 win at the Principality Stadium as the side then managed by Martin O'Neill secured a World Cup play-off spot where they were ultimately hammered by Denmark.

Wales, having already booked their spot at Euro 2020, are 11 places higher than the Republic as they sit 23rd in the Fifa rankings.

Finland made history in securing the country's first qualification for a major finals as they earned a Euro 2020 berth but at 58th are ranked 24 spots below the Republic.

Bulgaria were World Cup semi-finalists back in 1994 but have struggled in recent years and sit 59th in the Fifa rankings.

Kenny should be happy with draw - McCarthy

Current Republic boss Mick McCarthy will recall facing the Bulgarians in the 1988 Euro qualifiers when the Irish needed the help of a last-minute winner by Scotland's Gary Mackay in Sofia to secure a dramatic last-gasp qualification.

McCarthy will not be in charge when the Nations League begins in September with Stephen Kenny taking over the post when the Republic's Euro 2020 interest ends.

Republic of Ireland's Nations League 2020/21 fixtures
Bulgaria (A)Thursday 3 September
Finland (H)Sunday 6 September
Wales (H)Saturday 10 October
Finland (A)Tuesday 13 October
Wales (A)Friday 13 November
Bulgaria (H)Monday 16 November

However, McCarthy believes Kenny should be content with the draw.

"If Stephen Kenny was watching back home he will be very happy," said McCarthy.

"When I see the Russia, Serbia, Turkey, Hungary group we could have been in there.

"Wales are the stand-out side and they had a great 2016 European Championships and they're already looking forward to this summer's finals.

"We've played Bulgaria and beaten them recently and that experience will be good for any of my players if they come up against them in the Nations League.

"I don't know a lot about Finland but I'm sure the players will look forward to the playing them in the group."

NATIONS LEAGUE GROUPS IN FULL

League A
Group oneGroup twoGroup threeGroup four
NetherlandsEnglandPortugalSwitzerland
ItalyBelgiumFranceSpain
Bosnia and HerzegovinaDenmarkSwedenUkraine
PolandIcelandCroatiaGermany
League B
Group oneGroup twoGroup threeGroup four
RomaniaIsraelHungaryBulgaria
Northern IrelandSlovakiaTurkeyRepublic of Ireland
NorwayScotlandSerbiaFinland
AustriaCzech RepublicRussiaWales
League C
Group oneGroup twoGroup threeGroup four
AzerbaijanArmeniaMoldovaKazakhstan
LuxembourgEstoniaSloveniaLithuania
CyprusNorth MacedoniaKosovoBelarus
MontenegroGeorgiaGreeceAlbania
League D
Group oneGroup two
MaltaSan Marino
AndorraLiechtenstein
LatviaGibraltar
Faroe Islands

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