Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland v Serbia: Grant gunning for revenge

By Stuart McKinley

Grant McCann has upped the ante ahead of Northern Ireland’s Euro 2012 clash with Serbia by declaring ‘we owe you one.’



The midfielder is still smarting from the 2-1 defeat to the Serbs in Belgrade — a game he watched from the bench — even though it was over five months ago.

Northern Ireland led for 25 minutes in front of just 246 members of the Green and White Army, with home fans banned following the abandonment of a qualifier against Italy.

Those travelling supporters had nothing to cheer about at the end though as a slick second-half performance from the Serbs gave them full points.

Now, however, McCann is looking for revenge in a game that will go a long way to dictating where Nigel Worthington’s players are spending next summer.

“They shouldn’t have beaten us out there,” said McCann.

“We didn’t deserve to lose.

“The first-half was the best we’ve played for a long time. In the second-half they changed things a bit and scored early on, but at Windsor Park we’ve got to fancy our chances against them.

“We do owe Serbia one and hopefully we can get the three points back off them.”

McCann isn’t shying away from the importance of tomorrow night’s game and unlike the Belgrade battle there will be a full house at Windsor Park — and every fan will be shouting for Northern Ireland, with Serbia supporters currently banned from away games.

A win would put a four-point gap between Northern Ireland and Serbia in the fight for second place in the group — which is currently occupied by Slovenia. They will be expected to win at home to Estonia tomorrow night, but their one-point advantage over Worthington’s men could be overturned next Tuesday, when Northern Ireland travel to Tallinn while Slovenia meet Italy.

“This is probably the biggest game of the campaign,” admitted McCann.

“It’s a game that we need to get three points out of and I’m sure everyone in the squad will feel the same. At home we’ve got to be winning games. We were unlucky not to beat Italy and Slovenia at home. We played well in those games and had our chances.

“This is an opportunity to get three points and we’re positive we can do it.”

Now aged 31, McCann has experienced the disappointment of falling short in the last two campaigns, when Northern Ireland were in the mix to qualify for Euro 2008 and last year’s World Cup finals right until the very last game.

With his chances of pulling on the green shirt on one of football’s biggest stages reducing as each tournament passes, McCann admits that this could be his last opportunity.

That has made him hungrier than every before, but he can also feel that this time isn’t the same as the last.

“The difference this time is that there’s a belief in the squad,” said McCann, who has 34 caps to his name.

“I think the last time we said 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.

“If we get that right then we’ll be in the position that we want to be in with three games to go.”

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