Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Danish Test Will Prove Nigel's Worth

Northern Ireland’s European Championship qualifying match against Denmark on Saturday is being billed as the most important fixture the team have played in 20 years. Theoretically this is true, because should Spain fail to beat Sweden in their qualifier and should Northern Ireland take 6 points from the next two games, it is the Irish side which will travel to Austria and Switzerland next summer, rather than the star-studded Spanish team.

This is an unlikely scenario and one which we would not have faced had two appalling performances against poor Latvian and Icelandic teams produced the points we had a right to expect. It is tempting to say that it is also a scenario which we would not have faced had Lawrie Sanchez remained at the helm of the national team.

The team’s confidence should have recovered after an excellent point earned in Sweden, but it is difficult to envisage this feat being bettered with a win in Spain. Saturday’s game is another stiff test with Denmark also carrying a nominal chance of qualification into their last two games. Ever since the Danes succumbed by 4-1 to a poor Republic of Ireland side, there has been an unspoken assumption amongst supporters that we have every chance of beating them.

This is not a match we should approach with any complacency however. The Danish team are favourites and they will expect to take all 3 points at Windsor Park. If Northern Ireland are to achieve a result it will only be through an effort of the magnitude of previous incredible nights at Windsor Park.

Nigel Worthington has appealed to supporters to arrive at the ground early and to back the team in their inimitable fashion. An evening kick-off should ensure that this backing is forthcoming and that the magical atmosphere of Sanchez’s three most unlikely victories in Belfast can be recreated. It is now up to the manager to send out a team to grace the occasion and prove that he has the same tactical acumen and inspirational qualities to instigate a victory as his predecessor.

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