The Punter: Worthy’s happy but Northern Ireland's away days will bring more tears
There were a few raised eyebrows when Northern Ireland boss Nigel Worthington said he was happy with the Euro 2012 draw.
Granted, there wasn’t much he could do about it and has to put on a brave face, but there was not much of a pleasing nature as far as our qualification hopes are concerned.
There may be some crumbs of comfort in the oft-quoted declaration that we do better against the stronger nations.
That’s true in many respects at Windsor Park, but our record away from home continues to blight us with against meaningful opposition on the road since 1985 when Billy Bingham’s side beat Romania 1-0.
But the pressure will be greater now to win all home ties and that means beating Italy and Serbia who outclassed Worthy’s boys in a friendly back in November.
Northern Ireland are more or less guaranteed to win one away fixture — in the Faroe Islands — and hopefully that will be where the campaign begins as it’s vital to make a winning start.
Estonia, at Windsor, would preferably be next and that should see six points in the bag while the games with Slovenia are a toss-up before the uphill struggles with Italy and Serbia.
Northern Ireland’s chances of qualifying are best reflected by the layers who go 11-1 for them to be in Poland and the Ukraine, while it is a not-so-generous 25-1 to top Group C.
Double those odds would be more accurate while not to qualify is 1-20 with Ladbrokes and a paltry 1-66 with Paddy Power.
England should have no trouble qualifying and are as short as 2-5 to take Group G which includes Switzerland, Bulgaria, Wales and Montenegro.
Wales will be battling, probably in vain, for the second spot.
The Scots will not be heading Group I which has Spain as 1-5 favourites and the Tartan Army also have the Czech Republic to deal with, although the latter are not the force of old.
Scotland are 9-2 to qualify and 14-1 to oust the Spaniards for group dominance. There will be few rushing to take that.
The Republic of Ireland, so unlucky not to be in South Africa for the World Cup, have more than a fair chance of at least making the qualifiers from Group B.
Russia are 5-4 fancies to top that group with Giovanni Trapattoni’s outfit 15-8 to make the finals and 4-1 second favourites to qualify automatically by winning the group.
Northern Ireland to qualify: 11-1 yes; |1-20 no.
Republic of Ireland to qualify: 15-8 yes; 8-15 no.
England to qualify: 1-6 yes; 7-1 no.
Wales to qualify: 25-1 yes; 1-16 no.
Scotland to qualify: 9-2 yes; 1-5 no.
Group betting: A: 8-13 Germany; 4-1 Turkey; 12-1 Belgium; 20-1 Austria; 500-1 Kazakhstan; 1,000-1 Azerbaijan.
B: 5-4 Russia; 4-1 Rep of Ireland; 5-1 Slovakia; 40-1 Macedonia; 500-1 Armenia; 5,000-1 Andorra.
C: 4-5 Italy; 7-2 Serbia; 12-1 Slovenia; 25-1 N Ireland; 1,000-1 Estonia; 2,500-1 Faroe Islands.
D: 8-11 France; 4-1 Romania; 7-1 Bosnia; 33-1 Belarus; 500-1 Albania; 2,000-1 Luxembourg.
E: 2-5 Holland; 7-2 Sweden; 16-1 Finland; 20-1 Hungary; 500-1 Moldova; 5,000-1 San Marino.
F: 5-4 Croatia; 2-1 Greece; 8-1 Israel; 20-1 Latvia; 200-1 Georgia; 2,500-1 Malta.
G: 2-5 England; 7-1 Switzerland; 11-1 Bulgaria; 40-1 Wales; 40-1 Montenegro.
H: 10-11 Portugal; 5-2 Denmark; 7-1 Norway; 150-1 Cyprus; 200-1 Iceland.
I: 1-5 Spain; 13-2 Czech Republic; 14-1 Scotland; 100-1 Lithuania; 5,000-1 Liechtenstein.