Sunday 17 December 2017

Hughes in the hunt for an Italian job at home

Northern Ireland captain Aaron Hughes says it would be "huge" if they could put Italy to the sword tonight in their Euro 2012 qualifier at Windsor Park.

Hughes will lead the side out against the former world champions on the back of a terrific victory over Slovenia last month.

Asked about the importance of getting a positive result against Italy, who are going through a transitional period, the Fulham defender said: "It would be huge.

"We said at the start that you try to pick up what you can on your travels. This is our first home match in the campaign and to get something from it would be massive.

"It's not a must-win where we need all three points. Even if we come away with a point, we've got to remember who we're playing, one of the top sides in the world."

Northern Ireland have lost only one of their last eight qualifiers in different campaigns and manager Nigel Worthington believes they are growing as a squad.

The winner in Slovenia came from Corry Evans, who was set up by Craig Cathcart with both players making their competitive debuts.

Worthington said: "We have a very good group. I am absolutely thrilled and delighted we are bringing the youngsters through. The one thing I do know is that nine out of 10 times the team that is picked in qualifiers give their all and that will be important against Italy."


Levein -- It could well be a case of Czech mate if Scotland win or draw

Scotland have cranked up the pressure on the Czech Republic ahead of tonight's Euro 2012 qualifier by telling their opponents it is a match they cannot afford to lose.

Craig Levein's men sit top of Group I, while a shock defeat to Lithuania left the Czechs reeling and joint bottom after their opening match.

The Scotland boss would love nothing more than to return with three points from the clash in Prague. But he knows their hosts need the win more and he believes they will be feeling the pressure to deliver.

"I think this game is a big match for the Czech Republic as well," said Levein.

"They lost at home against Lithuania and that puts added pressure on them for this game.

"If the Czech Republic team don't take three points from this game, they will be in a very difficult position."

Flynn hoping it's all smiles better

Brian Flynn and Ashley Williams will be beaming with pride -- and belting out the national anthem -- when Wales take to the field tonight.

The Euro 2012 qualifier against Bulgaria at the Cardiff City Stadium marks the start of Flynn's two-match stint as caretaker manager and Williams will lead out his team as captain.

Flynn had little hesitation in handing the armband to the 26-year-old Swansea defender, whose career continues to advance.

Williams feels Flynn has brought fresh impetus to the team and is hoping that rubs off in performance after a poor start to the campaign.

Wales were beaten in Montenegro in their opening qualifier and, with tougher tests ahead, feel they must win to keep hopes alive.

Williams said: "When a new manager comes in everyone is trying to impress and training steps up a bit.

"It is definitely a must-win game. We are not looking for any other result."


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