Football: Lomas keeps the armband

Group Nine: Northern Ireland
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The Independent Online
Steve Lomas is set for a long reign as Northern Ireland's captain. His international manager, Bryan Hamilton, was very impressed with how the West Ham midfielder performed in his first match as skipper against Albania last month, and had no hesitation in handing him the armband again for tonight's World Cup qualifier against Portugal in Lisbon - even though Jim Magilton, who led the Irish against Germany, has returned to the squad after injury.

Lomas, who has 23 caps, may only be 23, but Hamilton feels he has great leadership qualities. It is a view shared by the Hammers' manager, Harry Redknapp, who made Lomas his captain earlier this season. "He's young, and could be captain for a long time," he said.

Portugal need to win in Benfica's Stadium of Light and hope Ukraine drop points in Armenia to claim second place in Group Nine and a play-off spot. Northern Ireland have drawn their last two matches against the Portuguese, including a fine 1-1 draw in Porto two years ago. "They have got to go for it, so hopefully they will leave some gaps at the back," Lomas said.

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