Linfield-Larne game off and doubts about future fixtures at home and abroad

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NI boss Michael O'Neill.

Q Radio Sport

Michael O'Neill believes Northern Ireland could benefit if their scheduled Euro 2020 play-off semi-final away to Bosnia and Herzegovina is played behind closed doors later this month.

The Bosnian Football Federation on Tuesday postponed ticket sales for the match due to ongoing fears over the spread of the coronavirus, suggesting the match is likely to take place without fans if it goes ahead as scheduled at all.

Having experienced a partisan Bosnian home crowd when Northern Ireland lost 2-0 in Sarajevo in the Nations League in October 2018, O'Neill admitted the lack of a crowd in Zenica on March 26 could help his side.

"We played Bosnia in the Nations League and while it was a small stadium the atmosphere was very intimidating, very patriotic," O'Neill said. "From that point of view, for our sake, it is something slightly to our advantage."

Despite the news coming from Bosnia, O'Neill said he would continue his preparations as normal, having on Tuesday named a 26-man squad which sees Jordan Jones and Conor Washington return from injury.


From a Bosnia perspective, the coronavirus outbreak could leave them without their two most influential players against Northern Ireland.

Edin Dzeko (Roma) and Miralem Pjanic (Juventus) play their club football in Serie A and may find themselves in the same situation as Wales' Aaron Ramsey, who is expected to miss his country's upcoming friendlies against Austria and the United States due to the lockdown in Italy.

"Naturally that would be a boost, but we can't really rely on that situation," O'Neill said. "I'm sure the Bosnian FA will be doing everything possible to get them out of the country. It's something that is not really a concern to us."

Locally, the big news is a Linfield player testing positive for Covid-19 - and their Danske Bank Premiership game against Larne on Saturday being postponed.

The situation could have widespread implications for the rest of the Irish League season.

A deep clean's been ordered at the Blues' home ground, the National Stadium at Windsor Park. 

The reserve team game between Linfield Swifts and Carrick Rangers due to be played on Wednesday night has also been postponed. 






The Northern Ireland women's team narrowly lost to Scotland in their final Pinatar Cup clash in Spain on Tuesday night.

Rachel Furness put Kenny Shiels' side in front, but the tournament champions fought back to win the game 2-1.






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