Northern Ireland won the group by a landslide, defeating Yugoslavia and defeating hosts Spain 1-0. After Mal Donaghy was sent off, Northern Ireland had to play the entirety of the second half with 10 men. In a 2-1 victory over Yugoslavia, Spain escaped with a contentious penalty. Northern Ireland then defeated Yugoslavia again by a score of 2-0 to claim their first World Cup title.
The Irish News said that "the lads from Belfast showed what can be done when you have belief in yourself". This quote comes from captain Peter McParland after his side beat Spain 1-0 at the San Mamés Stadium in Madrid. The goal was scored by David Healy just before half time.
Healy's goal was enough to see off the tournament winners and he became the first player from Northern Ireland to score at a World Cup finals. It also proved to be the only goal of the game as Spain failed to find a way through the defensive wall of George Best's otherwise depleted team.
After the match, both sets of fans went mad celebrating on the streets of Madrid. There were parties everywhere night after night with people going out drinking and dancing until the early hours of the morning.
Spain had been undefeated throughout the tournament but they found themselves on the end of some controversial decisions during the games against Northern Ireland and Yugoslavia.
Northern Ireland's campaign began with a draw against Algeria. Northern Ireland was then barely defeated by Spain before succumbing 3-0 to Brazil in their last encounter. This encounter included a goal by Josimar on his debut, as well as the final appearance of Pat Jennings for Northern Ireland. Spain joined Brazil in qualifying after defeating Algeria 3-0.
Thus ended one of the most successful campaigns in international football history, as Northern Ireland finished first in its group ahead of both Spain and Argentina. This achievement has never been repeated since then and it is currently ranked as the best performance by an Irish team.
After this success, there were hopes that Northern Ireland could finally qualify for the World Cup. However, they failed to do so when they were eliminated by England in the playoffs for the second consecutive time. The match ended 1-1 after extra time and had to be decided by a shootout; however, England won all three attempts to book their spot at the World Cup again.
There was also hope that Northern Ireland would be able to reach the Euro 1996 but they failed to do so as they were eliminated by Germany in the playoffs again.
Since then, there have been calls from some Northern Ireland fans that their country should be allowed to join Scotland as an independent nation but so far these calls have gone unheeded.
Ireland advanced to the finals after winning Group 7 of the qualifying competition. Ireland won the group ahead of Bulgaria thanks to a late goal by Scotland's Gary Mackay in Sofia. Ireland qualified for the finals after defeating Estonia in a 5-1 aggregate play-off in the qualification competition.
Ireland will compete in the finals from 19 June to 2 July 2013.
The UEFA European Championship is an annual international football tournament contested by the senior men's national teams of Europe. The championship has been organized by UEFA since 1956, when it replaced the older World Football Championship. It is currently ranked as the second most important soccer event behind only the FIFA World Cup. France is the current champion after defeating Italy 1-0 in the final in Paris on 25 May 2013.
At the end of each season, UEFA decides which countries are qualified for the following year's tournament based on their performance in UEFA competitions during the previous season. If a country has multiple entries into UEFA competitions, they accumulate points based on how far they advance in the tournament. In case of a tie between two or more countries at the same position, the following criteria are used to decide the order of qualification: latest participation in the tournament (i.e. if Germany and Austria both reach the quarter-finals, Germany would qualify because they entered the tournament later); highest number of goals scored/allowed; best result against other concerned teams.