Five reasons why Northern Ireland have qualified for Euro 2016

Michael O'Neill has gone down in Northern Irish folklore by steering the Green and White Army to their first major finals tournament since 1986.

Northern Ireland's 3-1 victory over 2004 European Championship winners Greece means the Green and White Army will take their place at Euro 2016 in France next summer.

Michael O'Neill's men have emerged from a group also containing Romania, Hungary and Finland, with the Romanians' 1-1 home draw against the Finns opening the door for Northern Ireland to top Group F if they get a point in Helsinki on Sunday.

The Northern Irish have taken 20 points from 27 on offer so far, with their latest victory at Windsor Park seeing them do the double over the Greeks and back up earlier wins against Hungary, Faroe Islands (twice) and Finland.

Points have also been secured via draws with Romania and the Hungarians, with Northern Ireland's only group defeat coming in Bucharest almost 12 months ago.

O'Neill Know-How

O'Neill may be less well-known than Republic of Ireland counterpart Martin, but the Portadown-born 46-year old has succeeded where the likes of Sammy McIlroy, Lawrie Sanchez and Nigel Worthington failed.

Euro 2016 will be Northern Ireland's first major tournament since the 1986 World Cup in Mexico when they exited at the group stage after being drawn with Brazil, Spain and Algeria.

During a long playing career, O'Neill won 31 international caps himself and against all the odds he will now be managing his country at an international tournament, joining Billy Bingham in achieving that honour.

Team Spirit

Northern Ireland are not blessed with the biggest pool of players to select from nor do they have a strong domestic league.

However, they have managed to work that in their favour during qualifying for Euro 2016 and also overcome a number of injury problems to see off the Greeks in south Belfast.

Veterans likes Roy Carroll, Gareth McAuley, Chris Brunt, Steven Davis and Paddy McCourt have been joined by a number of exciting youngsters and that can only bode well for the future.

Potent Attack

Northern Ireland have scored 15 goals in qualifying already ahead of the trip to Finland as they conclude their Group F campaign in Helsinki.

O'Neill's side's potency sees them seven goals better off than Romania, Hungary and the Finns to also give them a superior goal difference of +8.

Kyle Lafferty has led the way with almost half the goals and Northern Ireland's fans will hope he can arrive in France next summer fit and raring to go on the international stage.

Euro Expansion

The European Championship in France will feature 24 nations for the first time which is an expansion from the 16 that contested Euro 2012 in Ukraine.

However, the fact Northern Ireland can still top their group with at least a draw in their last match means they will have qualified fair and square.

Whether or not other nations were too casual in their approach because of the extra places available is open to debate.

Group Momentum

Winning is a habit in football and Northern Ireland made sure momentum was on their side from the very start of their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign.

Victories over Hungary, Faroe Islands and Greece saw them take nine points from their first three games, while a 2-0 defeat in their fourth in Romania did not derail them.

Avoiding defeat in Helsinki on Sunday and Northern Ireland can reflect on a record of just one loss in 10 competitive matches en route to France next summer.

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