International Friendly: Cyprus v N Ireland

Pambos Christodoulou will take charge of his first match as Cyprus coach on Wednesday when Northern Ireland visit Nicosia.

Christodoulou was appointed as the successor to Nikos Nioplias after the Greek oversaw a disappointing Cypriot qualification campaign for the FIFA World Cup. 

Under Nioplias, Cyprus finished bottom of Group E after taking only five points from a possible 30, with the side having failed to pick up a win since September 2012. 

Cyprus finished their qualification campaign on a relatively positive note, drawing 0-0 with Albania, and Christodoulou will be keen for his charges to begin 2014 in a positive manner against Michael O'Neill's men. 

Northern Ireland have lost four of their last five matches and former AEL Limassol and Anorthosis coach Christodoulou has opted for a squad with a few new faces to mark the start of his reign. 

Uncapped 18-year-old Andreas Makris is in Christodoulou's first squad alongside Giorgos Loizou and Georgios Aresti, while experienced striker Andreas Papathanasiou is in line for his first Cyprus appearance since March 2010. 

O'Neill, too, has been adventurous, opting to name uncapped MK Dons midfielder Ben Reeves in his squad, having impressed in League One since his release from Southampton.  

Paul Paton, also uncapped, has been drafted in as Sammy Clingan's replacement as the Kilmarnock midfielder is sidelined with a knee injury. 

Despite being without the likes of Jonny Evans, Aaron Hughes, Chris Baird, Corry Evans, Lee Hodson and Jonny Steele, O'Neill is confident Reeves and others returning to action, such as Dean Shiels, Pat McCourt and Kyle Lafferty, can impress.

"We have a few missing so we have a chance to bring in some players who haven't been involved in recent times," BBC Sport quotes him as saying.

On Reeves, he added: "He's had a good season and has scored 10 goals. It's important to (get) the chance to integrate him and give us more resources to pick from."

For both sides, Wednesday's friendly is the first of a series of matches before qualification begins for the UEFA European Championships in 2016. 

Cyprus travel to Japan in May before getting their Group B campaign under way against Bosnia-Herzegovina in September. 

Northern Ireland visit Uruguay and Chile ahead of September's qualification opener in Hungary. 


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