Northern Ireland could be handed the nightmare prospect of facing three teams who have qualified for next summer’s World Cup finals in the qualifying series for the 2012 European Championships.
And that would mean two more meetings with recent foes Slovenia, who reached South Africa after finishing second in Northern Ireland’s group, behind Slovakia, before beating Russia in a play-off on Wednesday night.
Northern Ireland will be in the third group of countries when the draw for the Euro 2012 campaign is made next February, which rules out possible meetings with Scotland and the Republic of Ireland as they are in the same pot.
Despite reaching the World Cup the Slovenians are in pot four and they will be the country everyone else will want to avoid, particularly Nigel Worthington whose side lost 2-0 in Maribor last year.
Croatia are the only country in pot one — which will contain England — who won’t be playing in
South Africa next summer.
The 51 teams will be drawn into six groups of six and three of five with the winners plus best runners-up qualifying and the other four qualifiers coming out of play-offs for the finals in Poland and Ukraine.