McCann: Northern Ireland have massive belief

 

Northern Ireland are in a familiar position this evening. Coming round the final bend of their qualification campaign, they have fought their way into a competitive position. To reach their first tournament since 1986, though, more is required, starting with a challenging game against Serbia at Windsor Park.

Two years ago it was Slovakia who came to Belfast. The visitors were top of the South Africa 2010 qualification group but Northern Ireland, who had only two games left, were just two points behind them. Nigel Worthington's men could not see it through, and Slovakia won 2-0. Northern Ireland finished in fourth place.

Now, Northern Ireland are in third place, one point ahead of the Serbs. On Tuesday they play in Estonia, before hosting the Baltic nation and travelling to Italy in October.

Grant McCann believes history is not about to repeat itself. "The difference this time is that there's a belief in the squad," said the Peterborough midfielder. "I think the last time we all said that we could do it, but maybe didn't really believe it. Now there is a massive belief in the squad. There's a massive belief that we can win on Friday and we're focused on that."

Sammy Clingan of Coventry City is similarly optimistic. "We've a really good chance to qualify this time," he said. "This is one of the biggest games that we're going to be involved in. We've four games left and I think we're in a good position."

Worthington has problems, though, as striker Kyle Lafferty and winger Pat McCourt are both doubts with calf injuries. McCourt scored two excellent goals in the 4-0 defeat of Faroe Islands last month.

Wales's fixture tonight against Montenegro at the Cardiff City Stadium does not have quite as much riding on it. With no points from their four matches so far in Group G, Gary Speed's team is playing for little more than pride.

"We owe the fans one," goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey said. "It's been tough for them and we're grateful so many have stuck by us, but now we want to show them that we can produce for them. We need a bit of luck and we haven't had much recently, but hopefully we can turn the tables because we've been doing everything right in training."

England fans will certainly be cheering the Welsh on tonight, though, with Montenegro fighting hard to pip Fabio Capello's side and win the qualifying group.

Euro hopes: How things stand in the other groups

Group A

Germany will win the group if they beat Austria tonight, leaving Belgium and Turkey to compete for the play-off spot.

Group C

Italy can secure at least a play-off spot if they win in the Faroes and either Serbia win or Slovenia fail to win.

Group D

France lead Belarus by a point with a game in hand and head to Albania tonight. Bosnia-Herzegovina, Romania and Albania are also in contention.

Group E

The Netherlands are three points clear of Sweden, while Hungary also retain hope of a play-off position.

Group F

Greece are a point ahead of Croatia and Israel, and travel to the latter tonight.

Group H

Portugal, Norway and Denmark are locked together on 10 points at the top.

Group I

Czech Republic can cut Spain's lead to three points if they beat Scotland tomorrow.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Teeth should be brushed twice a day to prevent tooth decay
education
News
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
news
Sport
footballChelsea 6 Maribor 0: Blues warm up for Premier League showdown with stroll in Champions League - but Mourinho is short of strikers
News
Those who were encouraged to walk in a happy manner remembered less negative words
science
Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
News
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
i100
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

News
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law
news

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London