Northern Ireland anxious for Worthington to stay

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Nigel Worthington will be asked next week to commit himself to the task of helping Northern Ireland qualify for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

The qualifying draw for the tournament saw Northern Ireland in Group Three with Czech Republic as well as Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and San Marino.

Irish Football Association (IFA) chief executive Howard Wells said the draw could have been tougher and easier, but that the first task was to persuade Worthington to stay on. Worthington pronounced himself satisfied after the draw. "I would rather have the group this way than have three to four easy ones and one difficult one," he said. "It's more difficult than the Euro 2008 qualifiers as only one team qualifies automatically but it's very interesting and there's plenty to look forward to."

The Czech Republic are the top seeds in the group and both they and Poland topped their Euro 2008 qualifying groups.

"The Czechs and Poland stand out straight away, they are very strong, in-form teams," added Worthington. "Slovakia and Slovenia, certainly away from Windsor Park, will not be easy games while San Marino are one of those teams you are expected to beat."

Worthington's contract as manager expired after Wednesday's defeat in Spain, but the IFA want him to stay on. Talks will place after the delegation returns from Durban. "I will see how they (IFA) are looking to take things forward and then I can put my side of the story to them. If the two tally up we can move forward together."

Group Three

* CZECH REPUBLIC A talented outfit, will be seen as dark horses for trophy

* POLAND Avoided England for once, will be happy to settle for Ulstermen

* SLOVAKIA Will provide big test for Worthington

* SLOVENIA Will not pose a great threat to Irish

* SAN MARINO Only 11 countries ranked below them in Fifa rankings