Hosts England and Northern Ireland have been drawn to face each other in the group stage of next year’s Women’s Euros finals.
The pair are in Group A, along with Norway and Austria, and will face each other in the third round of fixtures.
Kenny Shiels’ Irish side are making their tournament bow, with England now under the management of Sarina Wiegman.
England’s game with Austria will open the event at Old Trafford on 6 July, with the final at Wembley on 31 July.
Other highlights from Thursday’s draw in Manchester are eight-time winners Germany – the world’s number three ranked side – facing many people’s dark horse Spain in Group B and Sweden – ranked second in the world – in the same group as holders the Netherlands.
|Group A||England, Norway, Austria, Northern Ireland|
|Group B||Germany, Spain, Denmark, Finland|
|Group C||Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, Russia|
|Group D||France, Italy, Belgium, Iceland|
England start at Old Trafford, before playing Norway at Brighton and Hove Community Stadium (11 July) and Northern Ireland at St Mary’s Stadium in Southampton (15 July).
“It’s going to be exciting,” England defender Lucy Bronze told BBC Sport. “We played Scotland first game last time, we played Scotland in the World Cup and now we’ve got Northern Ireland as well – it’s like it was written in the stars.
“I think the pressure is there, being the home nation, but it’s only what you perceive it to be. We can look at it like ‘there are going to be so many more eyes on us’ but equally, there are so many more eyes supporting us as well.
“So we have that 12th person in the stadium, supporting us. Arguably, no nation is going to have the same as us.
“We’ve developed a lot, certainly since I’ve been involved. We’ve reached semi-finals of Euros, of World Cups. This team now has that experience of getting a little bit further – we just need that little push to get to the end.”
Northern Ireland play all three of their group games in Southampton, starting with Norway (7 July), followed by Austria (11 July) and then England, who beat them 4-0 in a World Cup qualifier earlier this month.
“It’s exciting,” Northern Ireland and Liverpool midfielder Rachel Furness told BBC Sport. “The preparation we’ve got, having recently played England and recently played Norway, so we have the preparation.
“It was like Christmas waking up this morning. It’s fantastic for the country.
“Being professional in the build-up, we have high expectations in our camp. Yes we got beat 4-0 at Wembley, but we held our own for 65 minutes. Our girls go to work 9-5 every day – the possibilities are endless with our small country.”
The finals were meant to be played this year, but delayed by 12 months because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Six other venues – Brentford’s Community Stadium, Manchester City’s Academy Stadium, Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane, MK Dons’ Stadium MK, Rotherham’s New York Stadium and the Leigh Sports Village – will be used during the tournament.
England reached the semi-finals at the last Euros in 2017, losing 3-0 to hosts Netherlands, who then went on to claim the trophy under the management of current Lionesses boss Wiegman. England have never gone past the last four in the competition.
In 2019, they finished fourth at the World Cup in France having lost 2-1 to eventual winners the USA in the semis.
The Lionesses have made a stunning start under Wiegman, scoring 32 goals and conceding none in four qualifiers for the 2023 World Cup.
The finals are being played 12 months later than planned because of the coronavirus pandemic.
More than 160,000 tickets have already been sold for what Uefa hopes will be the highest-attended female sports event in European history.