Jubilant Northern Ireland reach Euros

Euro 2016 (AP Photo)
Euro 2016 (AP Photo)

Athens - Northern Ireland qualified for next year's European Championship for the first time in emphatic style with a deserved 3-1 home victory over Greece at a raucous Windsor Park on Thursday.

Captain Steven Davis scored twice, sliding home the opener after a well-worked move 10 minutes before halftime, and heading in a corner after Josh Magennis made it 2-0 after the break.

Michael O'Neil's side are guaranteed a place at Euro 2016 in France as one of the top-two finishers in Group F and have reached their first a major tournament since the 1986 World Cup.

"The players were outstanding. Right through the team, magnificent, It's a privilege to be here, I'm proud to stand here as their manager," said O'Neil.

"How have we done it? I'm not really sure! The players deserve the ultimate credit. We have confidence and belief which comes from winning games. This shows the potential of this team and of football in Northern Ireland."

A swashbuckling sixth victory in nine games for the Irish took them to 20 points ahead of Romania on 17 and Hungary with 16, leaving the latter to fight it out for the remaining place.

The Irish players danced around the pitch draped in flags as they celebrated victory over the 2004 European champions who are bottom of the group without a win after a dreadful campaign.

Greece midfielder Christos Aravidis did prod home a late consolation for the visitors from Vasilis Torosidis' right-wing cross three minutes from time but that was scant consolation.

For the Greeks, who have only three points, the appointment of a permanent new coach in place of interim boss Kostas Tsanas, who managed the under-21 team, cannot come sooner.

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