Callaghan to embrace “underdogs” tag

England expected to fare strongly

Northern Ireland skipper Marissa Callaghan accepts her side are big “underdogs” in their first European Championship match against Norway (Match betting – Norway 1/28, draw 12/1, Northern Ireland 25/1) but says they will relish the occasion.

It is the first time that Northern Ireland have ever played in a women’s major international tournament after they defeated Ukraine in a play off back in April last year.

Now, they prepare to face Norway as well as England and Austria in what should prove to be a very tough Group A (14/1 to qualify from Group A).

They are currently ranked 47 in the world – the lowest-ranked side taking part in this summer’s tournament.

Norway meanwhile have plenty of pedigree in the women’s game having won the Euros twice in 1987 and 1993 as well as the World Cup in 1995.

Their form has been very good approaching the tournament, winning each of their last five games.

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In contrast, Northern Ireland have been beaten in each of their last four games.

Callaghan, who has declared herself fit following a toe injury scare on the eve of the Euros, says her team must believe in themselves despite the odds being stacked against them.

“We are up for the challenge. We are Northern Ireland, we are underdogs. We have prepared immensely,” she said.

“It is about performances, it is about believing in ourselves and the big thing we have spoken about is improving.

“We want to improve individually and we want to improve as a squad. We have a lot of experienced players and a lot of younger players and the aim for us is to get better game by game.”

On Wednesday, England (7/2 to win outright) began their campaign in solid fashion with a 1-0 win against Austria at Old Trafford.

Beth Mead’s lobbed finished in the first half was enough to see off Austria, with Sarina Wiegman’s side seeking to win their first-ever women’s international trophy on home soil.

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Author: Lucas Carlson