Northern Ireland advance despite losing to Germany

Northern Ireland joined England and Wales in the last 16 of the European Championship after finishing as one of the best third-placed teams.

Northern Ireland – in their first appearance at a Euros and first major tournament since 1986 – will now meet either Wales or France for a place in the quarter-finals.

Michael O’Neill’s side lost 1-0 to Germany on Tuesday but finished third in Group C, with their tally of three points enough to see them advance on goal difference.

Turkey’s 2-0 victory against the Czech Republic ensured that Northern Ireland will be one of the four best third-placed teams who will go on to join the group winners and runners-up in the knockout stages.

A tie against Wales would take place on Saturday in Paris, or they will play France in Lyon on Sunday.

The Republic of Ireland will qualify for the last 16 if they beat Italy tonight.

Italy, who are already through to the next round for a last-16 meeting with holders Spain, are set to make “between seven and nine” changes for the game, according to boss Antonio Conte.

“It’s surreal,” O’Neill told BBC. “We were just on the coach so have been following on the news. I’m not sure it’s really sunk in yet, but it’s a fantastic achievement.

“We knew the group would be difficult. What we saw tonight was a team that refused to be beaten by a big margin and did everything possible to stay in the game.

“Over the three games we deserve to be in the last 16. What we went through tonight will prepare us for anything in the next round and our players will be ready for whoever.”

Asked whether he would rather face Wales or France, O’Neill added: “If I was picking a team I thought we had a better chance against I would say Wales, but we’ll see who comes out after the final group games on Wednesday (today).”

Wales now know that they will either play Northern Ireland, Turkey or Albania.

Roy Hodgson’s England side play their last-16 match on Monday at against the side that finishes second in Group F. The Group contains Hungary, Iceland, Portugal and Austria.

By failing to finish top of Group B, England find themselves in the same side of the draw as Spain, Italy, Germany, France and, potentially, Portugal.

Wales’ reward for finishing in first place is an apparently kinder route through the tournament.

Switzerland, Poland and Croatia are in their side of the draw and could be joined by Belgium and Portugal if they both qualify from their respective groups. Belgium face Sweden in Group E on Wednesday, while Portugal play Hungary in Group F.

Defending champions Spain lost for the first time at a European Championship since 2004 when they were beaten 2-1 by Croatia last night.

They will face Italy in the last 16 and, like England, will have to come through a tough side of the draw to reach the final.

All of hosts France, Wales, Germany and Croatia are through to next round after winning the respective groups while Italy has also progressed and is sure for a top sport in Group E.

Hungary sits on top of Group F with 4 points and is sure of qualification even as a third best if it loses to Portugal tonight.

Switzerland, England, Poland and Spain are the other sides in the last 16 after finishing second in their respective groups while Slovakia and Northern Ireland have gone through among the best four third placed sides.

A further two best third-placed spots are still available for the last-16 stage, with Albania clinging on having gained three points in Group A.

Two further places are still up for grabs in Groups E and F who play their final group matches this evening.

Romania, Russia and the Czech Republic are all out after managing just one point each and Ukraine failed to collect a goal or a point.









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