Northern Ireland MP, Jim Weir, suggested that Northern Ireland boss, Michael O’Neill, should get a knighthood for his work with the squad.
This shows just how remarkable it is that Northern Ireland are going to Euro 2016 – their first European Championship ever. But can they get any further than the group stage? Let’s take a look…
Route to Euro 2016
In what was one of the surprises of the tournament, Northern Ireland came top of Group F with six wins and three draws; just a point separated them from runners-up, Romania.
Northern Ireland lost once during qualifying to Romania in Bucharest, before a run of six games without defeat. Kyle Lafferty hit the back of the net seven times, including the winner in Budapest and a vital equaliser in the 93rd minute against Hungary at home.
A 3-1 win over Greece sealed qualification for Northern Ireland with a match still to go.
Northern Ireland have never been to a European Championship before.
However, they only missed out on a place at France ‘84 on goal difference to West Germany, which was remarkable considering that the Germans were runners-up in the World Cup just two years previously.
Goal difference also paid towards Northern Ireland’s chances of a play-off place before Euro ‘96.
Michael O’Neill became assistant manager of Cowdenbeath in 2005 before taking his first job as manager with Brechin City in 2006.
O’Neill left Glebe Park for Shamrock Rovers, with whom he won the League of Ireland in 2010 and 2011. He also became the first manager to lead an Irish club into the group stages of a European tournament.
Despite a draw with Portugal and a win over Russia, O’Neill could only lead Northern Ireland to a fifth place finish in qualification Group F for the 2014 World Cup.
Most important player
Norwich City’s Kyle Lafferty is Northern Ireland’s second highest ever goal-scorer, behind David Healey.
Despite not figuring much in Alex Neil’s plans at Carrow Road, Lafferty is proving invaluable for his country, having scored seven goals during the qualifiers.
Lafferty uses his strength and aggression to make powerful runs, with counter-attacks being a strong point. He has a sure first touch and works the wings with his accurate passing ability.
Centre-back Paddy McNair made a fine international debut against Greece while filling in for the injured Jonny Evans.
As a converted midfielder, the Manchester United youth product has an impressive passing range which allows Northern Ireland to build runs from the back.
Still very young, McNair may find it hard to break up the partnership formed by Gareth McAuley and Evans, but he certainly shows a lot of promise.
At 500/1 to win the tournament, we’re pretty sure Northern Ireland don’t have a hope of being crowned victorious. If they do, it will be a bigger upset than Denmark in 1992 and Greece in 2004 combined.
While we see them as least likely to qualify from their group at 2/1, their first game sees them come up against Poland, with Lewandowski likely to lead the line.