Football: Hope dies hard for Hughes

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The Independent Online
MICHAEL HUGHES will win his 50th cap against Germany today still believing Northern Ireland can qualify for the finals of a major tournament.

His one regret, in an eight-year international career, is never playing in the finals of a World Cup or European Championship. Saturday's 3-0 home defeat by Turkey extinguished hopes of reaching next summer's Euro 2000 finals.

Hughes, who made his debut against Denmark in Odense in November 1991, said: "I'm 28 now and I still believe I've got time to qualify for something." The Wimbledon midfielder missed training yesterday because of an infected toenail, but the Irish coach, Lawrie McMenemy, said that was just a precaution.

Northern Ireland have drawn twice and won on their three previous visits to Germany. "We know that they will be coming at us from all angles," McMenemy said. "But we usually do well in these positions."

He stays faithful to the team defeated by Turkey and wants his players to return to the way they were playing before Saturday. "I'm glad we're playing again so soon and we've got this chance to put things right," he said. If Barry Hunter is ruled out with an ankle injury, Steve Morrow is expected to come in.

GERMANY (probable): Lehmann, Linke, Nowotny, Babbel, Matthaus, Ziege, Jeremies, Scholl, Bode, Bierhoff, Neuville.

NORTHERN IRELAND (probable): Taylor (Fulham), Horlock (Manchester City), Hunter (Reading), Williams (Watford), A Hughes (Newcastle), Kennedy (Watford), Lomas (West Ham United), Lennon (Leicester City), McCarthy (Birmingham City), M Hughes (Wimbledon), Dowie (Queens Park Rangers).