Saturday 20 January 2018

Hughes hopes for home help on Italian job

Northern Ireland supporters are promising to crank up the atmosphere at Windsor Park on Friday when former world champions Italy arrive for their Euro 2012 qualifier.

The fans are in bouyant mood following the 1-0 victory against Slovenia in the opening match thanks to a vital goal from Manchester United rookie Corry Evans.

Italy, for all their experience, could be in for a daunting time at the old Belfast stadium, especially as 3,000 temporary seats have been installed after the Railway Stand's demolition.

A 14,500 capacity crowd is expected at a ground where both England and Spain have been defeated in recent times.

Gary McAllister of the Amalgamation of Northern Ireland Supporters Clubs said: "Italy's visit to Belfast is one of the most anticipated games for some time.

"A positive result would give everyone a tremendous boost for the Euro 2012 campaign. As always, the fans have an important role to play in creating another magical atmosphere."

Northern Ireland captain and Fulham defender Aaron Hughes sees no reason why Northern Ireland cannot pull off another shock.

Italy stumbled past Estonia in their opening match and are in a period of transition.

Hughes said: "At home over the last few years we've had some really good results. The England and Spain games will be talked about for years and we beat a lot of good teams that were ranked higher than us at home.

"Our home form is strong and we should go into the game with plenty of confidence.

"But it would be extremely dangerous to go into the match thinking Italy aren't what they used to be because the team is full of quality players.

"We face a tough test and we have to do everything we did against Slovenia in the first game and a little bit more."

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