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San Marino vs Northern Ireland predictions: O'Neill to open with a victory
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Jack Ogalbe
Michael O'Neill is looking to start his second stint with a win
Michael O'Neill is looking to start his second stint with a win

- San Marino have not won an international fixture since 2004 
- Northern Ireland have triumphed 3-0 in their two previous away trips to Serraville 
- Recommended bet: Northern Ireland to win 3-0

Michael O'Neill begins his second spell in charge of Northern Ireland on Thursday and he will expect to start his latest reign with a comfortable win in San Marino.

They head to Serraville looking to kick off their Group H campaign in style ahead of Sunday's visit of Finland to Windsor Park, a game that could go a long way in deciding who pushes pool favourites Denmark the hardest.

With Kazakhstan and Slovenia also involved, Group H looks wide open and Thursday's match could set the Green and White Army up nicely in their quest to qualify for next summer's finals in Germany.

Defender Jonny Evans has won 100 caps for Northern Ireland
Defender Jonny Evans has won 100 caps for Northern Ireland

Team news

San Marino have a full squad to select from and are unlikely to make wholesale changes from the pool that impressed in their November matches against St Lucia.

For Northern Ireland, Jonny Evans will miss the March internationals due to a hamstring problem, while captain Steven Davis is out for the season with a double ACL tear.

Evans' brother Corry is also absent with a similar problem, meaning Paddy McNair could step out of the defence and into the midfield.

The stats

San Marino have famously only ever won one international fixture, beating Lichtenstein 1-0 in 2004.

They have drawn two of their last four matches, albeit those results came against Seychelles and St Lucia. Their most recent competitive match came during that run when they lost 4-0 at home to Estonia in the Nations League.

Northern Ireland struggled in last year's Nations League, winning just one of their six Group C2 games.

However, they have a fine record against San Marino, winning all four of the pair's previous games without conceding.

They have won both Belfast meetings 4-0, while their games at the Stadio Olimpico de Serravalle each ended 3-0.


It is tough to see anything but a Northern Ireland win and Thursday looks like the perfect opportunity for O'Neill's second spell in charge to start with a victory.

Northern Ireland struggled under Ian Baraclough and will hope to recapture the form they showed in O'Neill's initial eight-and-a-half-year before stepping down in 2020.

After qualifying for Euro 2016 but missing out on making it to Euro 2020, getting through to next summer's finals in Germany will surely be a priority for the returning 53-year-old.

However, they have traditionally struggled for goals, netting just seven times in their six matches in the Nations League and have scored more than twice in a game only once in their last 14 matches.

That was in a friendly against Luxembourg and it might be slow going in Serraville, but there is every chance that history could repeat itself.

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