Football: McMenemy envies Moldova pedigree

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The Independent Online
LAWRIE McMENEMY is playing mind games ahead of Northern Ireland's Euro 2000 qualifier against Moldova at Windsor Park today. McMenemy says his side are the underdogs, even though Moldova are ranked 23 places lower at 116th in the world standings.

McMenemy said: "We are the underdogs if you look at where we draw our players from, who they are playing for and their lack of experience. The Moldovan players are all playing regular football and they are a high- quality unit. We're picking from lads who are third choice at Blackburn, reserve at Manchester City and the only goalkeeper we have playing regularly is in the Second Division. You should not underestimate the opposition in any game whatsoever.

"If anyone is giving the impression that this game will be any easier than our last one, against Finland, that could be fatal. What I'm trying to do is guard against complacency."

Despite McMenemy's attempt at kidology, Northern Ireland are still expected to beat Moldova, who have won one competitive away game in their history. Three points would take Northern Ireland joint top of Group Three with six points, alongside Finland and Turkey. It would put them back in the hunt for qualification following their 3-0 loss in Istanbul in the first game.

McMenemy has been forced to change his full-backs for the game and Watford's Peter Kennedy will make his debut at left-back, while the Under-21 skipper, Danny Griffin, is expected to play at right-back. McMenemy and his assistant, Joe Jordan, have been monitoring Kennedy's progress at Vicarage Road and McMenemy did not hesitate about giving the 25-year-old his first cap.

He said: "I have been aware of him and he has been on the stand-by list before. Looking around he must have thought he was in with a chance because I am without five players who can play full-back. But one man's absence is another's opportunity and there's no doubt that he has a sweet left foot."

Steve Lomas, the West Ham midfielder, will resume the captaincy after missing the last three internationals through injury.

Ivan Daniliants has still to win a game since he took over as the Moldova coach in the summer. They lost to Finland and Germany in their opening two qualifiers. Daniliants' task has been made harder because he will be without the experienced midfielder Igor Oprea, who is suspended.