EURO 2016: Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill relishing massive last 16 clash with Wales in Paris

Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill
Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill

Northern Ireland will meet Wales in a massive ‘Battle of Britain’ in the last 16 of Euro 2016.

It looked for a long time on Wednesday night that Michael O’Neill’s heroes were destined to tackle hosts France in the second stage, with Wales meeting Turkey.

But the Republic of Ireland’s 1-0 victory over Italy – Robbie Brady scoring a late winner in Lille – changed the dynamics of the second-round line-up.

Turkey were eliminated as the Republic reached the next stage, and Northern Ireland – one of the four best third-placed teams – were handed a showdown with Group B winners Wales at the Parc des Princes in Paris on Saturday.

It is a mouth-watering prospect for O’Neill and his players as they prepare to face a Welsh side that topped a qualifying group that included England, Slovakia and Russia to progress to the second stage.

“It is going to be a fantastic game,” O’Neill said late last night.

“We will be heading back to the Parc des Princes which as we know from Tuesday night is a brilliant stadium.

“We will benefit from the familiarity of having been there already, of having done the journey and of having played on the pitch.

“The results tonight put is in what is arguably the more favourable side of the draw, so we are pleased about that.

“We are in no doubt that it is going to be a tough game against Wales but we will go into the match believing that we can win and that we can progress.”

Welsh boss Coleman is under no illusions ahead of Saturday’s game in Paris.

“Northern Ireland are more physical than Turkey,” he said.

“They get the ball forward quicker. That’s where their strength is.

“They are superbly organised and defensively so difficult to break down. They are excellent from set-plays.”

Wales and Northern Ireland are in what is considered the easier half of the draw.

England, who play Iceland in the last 16, are in the same half as France, Germany, Italy and Spain.

The Republic of Ireland will face hosts France on Sunday.

Martin O’Neill’s men claimed the win they needed against Italy courtesy of Brady’s 85th-minute header.