Northern Ireland's Euro 2022 preparations reach conclusion with Belgium friendly

Northern Ireland's ladies have just one match left before they head to their maiden major tournament - and Thursday night's game with Belgium is a final chance for players to push for inclusion in the European Championship squad.

From a training squad of over 30, 24 have been named for the friendly - but boss Kenny Shiels can only pick 23 players for Euro 2022 in England, and an extra goalkeeper needs to be added for the tournament. He'll name his squad on Monday, but admits he still has decisions to make.

“I’m not sure,” said Shiels when asked by UTV how close he was to a final 23.

“We’ll see how they get on against Belgium – my judgement doesn’t stop.”

The sight of Northern Ireland captain Marissa Callaghan on crutches and with her foot in a protective boot at a Cliftonville game was a worry for fans - and she's still not available to face Belgium.

“Marissa isn’t taking part to full capacity so I don’t want to count my chickens too much, but it would be great if she could be ready for the Euros,” Shiels said.

“Marissa is a key figure and a key player and she has a presence on the pitch, but the injury is not fully healed to let her play.”

For Shiels the team remains a development project and even the tournament will be used to build for the future.

“We’ve probably reached these finals too soon in terms of being ready, but we’ll see, I hope the girls can contradict that,” Shiels said.

“The three teams we are playing are three of the best in the world and they are at the apex of where they can go, but looking at us we have some growth room and we are trying to grow our players in a way in which we become better as a nation.”

Northern Ireland start their Euros campaign against Norway in Southampton on the 7th of July.