Belfast Telegraph

Estonia v Northern Ireland: We can still qualify, says Camp

By Stuart McKinley

Lee Camp inadvertently coined a new phrase as Northern Ireland’s players attempt to spell out their belief that qualification for the Euro 2012 finals is still strong.

Whether he’s mixing his metaphors or not, the message is still clear; nobody in Nigel Worthington’s squad is conceding that all hope of clinching the play-off berth behind Italy in Group C is gone.

Serbia’s 1-0 win at Windsor Park on Friday night has made the job very difficult though.

Northern Ireland will, almost certainly, have to win both of their forthcoming back-to-back games against Estonia. And after that something might be needed from the last game of the campaign, which is away to Italy, who are unbeaten in the group.

First things first for Camp and his international colleagues and the job at hand now is to collect three points in Tallinn tomorrow night.

“There’s still hope at the end of the tunnel,” said Camp, as he looks for some light.

Anything other than three points for Northern Ireland and the lights will go out on the qualifying series.

Estonia’s record in the group — winning 3-1 in Serbia and drawing with them at home before a 1-0 win in Slovenia on Friday night — shows that they will be a tough nut to crack, but they also lost 2-0 to the Faroes Islands.

“Estonia winning in Slovenia and us having two games against Estonia means we’re still in it and we’ll be looking to put things right,” said Camp.

“There’s still all to play for. Nobody likes losing at the best of times, but it’s not over yet. There’s still a chance of us being able to achieve what we want to achieve.

“Before we played Serbia it was all in our own hands and that’s always a good position to be in.

“It’s disappointing to lose, but I still think there’s a chance.

“Anything can happen in football.”

Camp was probably the man most unfortunate to finish on the losing side against a very strong Serbian team.

The fact that the sponsors named him as their man-of-the-match, however, tells its own sad tale of how much Northern Ireland relied on their number one as the visitors dominated for most of the game, aside from the first 15 minutes of the second-half when Serbia were on the defensive.

Camp — who qualifies for Northern Ireland via a north-Down born grandfather — pulled off a series of important saves and in particular his fingertip stop which denied Milos Ninkovic just two minutes before Marko Pantelic struck the winning goal was only bettered by the one he pulled off to frustrate Milan Jovanovic 10 minutes later.

Filling the gloves of Maik Taylor was never going to be an easy task for whoever was charged with the responsibility. The Nottingham Forest ‘keeper isn’t doing too badly though.

“You do your bit and whatever comes of it comes of it,” he said.

“It’s about the result and what the team do really and it’s disappointing that we lost the game.”

How Northern Ireland respond now is key. Victory over Estonia will keep hopes alive. A defeat would kill them off while a draw would do much the same.

“We’ll be okay, we’ve got big characters in the dressing room and amongst the group,” said Camp.

“We’ve got to pick ourselves up and move on to Tuesday.

“We’ve are professional, we’ve all been here before and we know how to react to things. We go about our business and get back at it.”

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