Ireland to face Belgium in Aviva Stadium friendly

The Republic of Ireland will face Belgium, ranked number one in the world, in a friendly at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday, March 26th
Ireland to face Belgium in Aviva Stadium friendly

James Cox

The Republic of Ireland will face Belgium, ranked number one in the world, in a friendly at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday, March 26th.

The game will be part of the FAI's centenary celebrations, and the association has also announced a Dublin friendly against Lithuania the following Tuesday.

“Stephen Kenny’s Republic of Ireland side will use these games as warm-ups for the start of the UEFA Nations League campaign in June,” the FAI confirmed, “when they face Ukraine, Armenia and Scotland in four fixtures including home ties with Ukraine on Saturday, June 4th and Scotland on Saturday, June 11th.”

Belgium may be without some of their star names like Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku as manager Roberto Martinez has indicated he will give less experienced players a chance in the March international window.

“It will be an opportunity to develop players, not for 2022 but for 2026,” Martinez told La Tribune about the March window (although he was speaking about a since cancelled trip to Qatar).

“This is a project we have been working on for a long time. We will leave with players who could reach their best level for 2026. Players born between 1997 and 2008. It's important to see these players in a scheme where they will be given a big role. It's different from seeing a young player sitting next to a player who has 100 caps."

The FAI is yet to agree terms with Kenny on a new deal that would bring the manager up to the European Championship in 2024, although it is thought to be imminent.

Ireland's last tie with Belgium was a 3-0 group stage loss at Euro 2016, in which Lukaku scored twice.

Ireland have Uefa Nations League games confirmed against Ukraine (Saturday, June 4th), Scotland (Saturday, June 11th) and Armenia (Monday, September 26th), with a friendly preceding the summer series.

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