What a magnificent night for European football. The plucky Northern Ireland, buoyed by their jubilant crowd at Windsor Park, shocked world football by defeating Spain 3-2. And France cruised to a comfortable and awe-inspiring 3-1 home win against World champions Italy. Add to that Scotland’s crucial 2-1 away win in Lithunia, Germany’s annihilation of San Marino (13-0) and England picking up a much-needed, and as predicted, tricky win against Macedonia (1-0) with a Peter Crouch goal.
To appreciate the Northern Ireland win, you have to put the game into context based on Northern Ireland’s recent track record of zero wins in eight wins of European qualifying football. Remember that Northern Ireland only has a population of 1.6 million, and its star players include Keith Gillespie (Sheffield United), David Healy (Leeds United) and Maik Taylor (Birmingham City).
And what a fantastic third goal by Healy to win the match with a beautifully chipped lob over Casillas in goal.
The match, which was shown on Setanta Sports, was reminiscent of Northern Ireland’s previous shock win against Spain in the 1982 World Cup when Gerry Armstrong scored for Northern Ireland in a 1-0 win versus the host country.