Conor Hazard’s form whilst away with the Northern Ireland under-21s deserves recognition.
The young Celtic shot-stopper was given the gloves as his country’s Euro 2021 qualifying campaign got underway against Malta and Finland.
Over the course of the break, Northern Ireland had to settle for two points from the two fixtures. First off, Hazard’s side secured a disappointing 1-1 home draw against the Maltese. But it was backed up with an impressive display against the Finnish youngsters last night away from home in another 1-1 stalemate.
Hazard in particular was on the of the more impressive performers on the night. The captain made some fine stops to deny Saku Ylatupa on three separate occasions. He also made a good stop from former Dundee striker Benjamin Kallman.
Hazard was ultimately unfortunate with the goal Finland scored last night too. It was actually a decent stop to deny Ylatupa, but Onni Valakari was on hand to tuck home the rebound. In terms of his own display, however, he helped bolster his reputation once more.
International success a real possibility for Hazard
Hazard continues to impress with the under-21s. It’s no coincidence he’s their captain just over one year on from making his debut for the side.
Ahead of him in the N.I pecking order is Motherwell’s Trevor Carson, Norwich City’s Micahel McGovern, and Burnley’s Bailey Peacock-Farrell respectively. There is a wealth of competition there, but Hazard looks set to be the next goalkeeper to breakthrough.
He won’t be helped by his lack of game-time at Celtic of course. He actually made his breakthrough with the under-21s during after a loan spell with Falkirk came to an end. Hazard managed five clean sheets in 12 games with the Bairns, and it’s clear the Northern Ireland set-up were impressed with him.
Just the one full cap so far
As it stands, he only has one full international cap to his name. That came back in March 2018 during a 3-0 defeat to Costa Rica. He only featured for the final 17 minutes, and this also came during his impressive stint at Falkirk.
That perhaps provides evidence for how important it is for Hazard to get back out on loan once again. The quality ahead of him at Celtic is too much for him right now. A move in January could seriously help him get noticed by Michael O’Neill once again.
He’s already confirmed that he’ll be open to another move if Celtic can’t give him the minutes he’s after. It goes without saying that game-time will be hard to come by. And after an impressive spell with the under-21s once again, Hazard could do with finding that regular game-time he needs to potentially get back into the full squad.