Our match prediction:
Czech Republic head into the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying looking to secure their second ever participation at the biggest stage after 2006. Karel Jarolim’s men are determined to turn a new page and start fresh following their disappointing Euro 2016 campaign which saw them crash out of the competition after losing to Spain, Turkey and drawing with Croatia in the group stage. Four matches on the trot without a win should be considered an omen for the Czech side, who will face hugely motivated side at the beginning of the road to Russia. Northern Ireland are coming of from an unsuccessful summer in footballing terms, but the Green and White Army proved to be quite a hit in France with their upbeat supporters, who were one of the brightest impressions from the tournament. Michael O’Neill should bear in mind though that Northern Ireland is yet to beat Czech Republic, who are predicted for a win at their Generali Arena in Prague. The two countries met on four occasions so far with two of the last encounters ending in goalless draws.
Highligted Player (Gebre Selassie):
Born to Ethiopian father and Czech mother, Theodor Gebre Selassie was the first ever player of African descent to represent the Czech Republic national team when he was handed his debut back in 2011. The right-sided defender has since done well to nail down a regular starting berth and went on to play at the Euro 2012 and Euro 2016 finals. Gebre Selassie represented the likes of Vysocina Jihlava, Velke Mezirici, Slavia Prague and Slovan Liberec, before the solid showing at the 2012 European Championship helped him earn a move to Werder Bremen. The right back has performed well at the Weserstadion, but he eventually lost his place in the Czech Republic starting XI, making just three appearances during the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign. However, having amassed over 30 appearances for the national team with a proud history, he can be quite satisfied with how his international career has panned out so far, while there is still time to further raise his stock.
Highlighted Team (Northern Ireland):
Competing first under the Irish flag and then as an independent entity, Northern Ireland are one of world’s oldest national teams, but they haven’t enjoyed too much success in history. Led by Danny Blanchflower, the Irish impressed at their first ever World Cup finals appearance, reaching the quarter-finals in 1958, but they have since only played at the 1982 and 1986 tournaments, reaching round 2 and crashing out in the group stage respectively. Northern Ireland had failed to qualify for 13 successive European Championship finals before finally booking their ticket to the Euro 2016 in France, and the fans hope this success will only be a sign of things to come. Without a doubt, George Best is the most famous footballer to have ever put on the green shirt, scoring 9 goals in 37 appearances, but he couldn’t help the national team close the gap behind Europe’s top sides. Some of the other high-profile footballers include Pat Jennings, Aaron Hughes, David Healy, Keith Gillespie, Steven Davies and Gareth McAuley.