FOOTBALL: Northern Ireland to play Panama and Costa Rica in 2018
Northern Ireland will travel to Central America next year to play Panama in Panama City on Tuesday 29 May before taking on Costa Rica on Sunday 3 June in San Jose.
It will be the first time that Northern Ireland has faced either country, who have both qualified for the FIFA 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Panama, who are ranked 55th in the world, will be World Cup debutants next summer and have been drawn in a group with England, Belgium and Tunisia.
Costa Rica, who are 26th in the world rankings, face Serbia, Brazil and Switzerland who Northern Ireland lost narrowly to in November’s FIFA World Cup play-off.
Northern Ireland’s match against Panama will be played in the Stadio Rommel Fernandez, while the game against Costa Rica will take place in Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica. Kick-off times will be confirmed in the new year.
Northern Ireland Manager, Michael O’Neill, said: ‘These are exciting games and are fixtures that we are looking forward to. In 2014 we travelled to South America to play Uruguay and Chile and those matches were hugely beneficial to us ahead of the EURO 2016 qualifying campaign. Playing in Central America will be a new experience for everyone involved and while we will enjoy that aspect of the tour, most importantly we will be using the matches to give us solid preparation for the UEFA Nations League and UEFA EURO 2020 qualifying.’