Northern Ireland have ended a 28 year wait to qualify for a major international competition for the first time since the 1986 Mexico World Cup. Their victory against Greece on Thursday night means that they have qualified for the finals of Euro 2016 next year in France.
Northern Ireland found their squad strangely different with a number of key players unavailable for the fixture. O'Neill started out the fixture with a 4-1-4-1 formation, with Josh Magennis starting as the lone striker for Northern Ireland. Manchester United's Paddy McNair also found himself being called up to the starting XI.
The game started out tentatively with the Northern Irish side showing their nerves as they stood on the edge. With a number of opening exchanges, the Greek side dominated possession to start with yet failed to make significant trouble for the Northern Irish side, except for a lone headed chance which was coped with well.
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With 35 minutes played, Corry Evans sliced open the Greek defence with a stunning through ball to Leeds winger Stuart Dallas who expertly slotted the ball across the face of goal where Davis was on hand to tuck the ball neatly away and put the home side ahead - to the delight of Windsor Park which erupted in euphoria which could be heard all over Belfast.
Greece almost managed to spoil the party just before half time with Mitroglou's shot rattling the post and putting Northern Irish fans on the edge of their seats.
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The second half saw Northern Ireland return with an added spring in their step as O'Neill's half time words ringing in their ears. Visibly pressing higher up the pitch paid off almost instantly as the pressure won Norwood a corner which was superbly dispatched into the top corner with a looping header from Magennis - his first international goal for Northern Ireland.
Before the hour mark, Northern Ireland found themselves even further ahead as the Man of the Match Steven Davis firmly turned Northern Ireland's dream into reality by brilliantly scoring his second of the night by heading the ball home from the edge of the box.
Josh Magennis might have extended the lead further just before 70 minutes if not for exceptional defensive work from Papastathopoulos who just managed to put the Kilmarnock striker under enough pressure to miss his chance.
With a victory tonight, it leaves Northern Ireland undefeated at home in the qualifiers, a feat that has not been achieved since the campaign for Euro 1984 which saw Northern Ireland defeat West Germany in both home and away fixtures, yet bow out as the Germans managed to scrape through with a win against Albania.
With three minutes left of regular time, the long-suffering Greeks managed to scramble home only their third goal of the entire qualifying campaign. A nice piece of play by Torosidis opened up the Northern Irish defensively and Aravidis just about managed to put the ball into the roof of the net.
With a final fixture on October 11 against Finland, all pressure is off Northern Ireland as their European ticket is booked with that game in hand - a position that even the most ardent Northern Ireland supporter could have dared to dream.
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