Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland v Slovenia: We can’t lose

By Stuart McKinley

Northern Ireland go into tonight’s Euro 2012 crunch clash with Slovenia at Windsor Park knowing a defeat is likely to spell the end of their qualification hopes.

Last Friday night’s 2-1 loss to Serbia — after Northern Ireland had led 1-0 at half-time — has left Nigel Worthington’s men lying second from bottom of Group C.

And although we have a match in hand, a defeat tonight would mean we’d have to win all five remaining games in order to make the finals in Poland and Ukraine next summer.

Gareth McAuley will captain Northern Ireland from the start for the first time — in the absence of Aaron Hughes, who suffered a shoulder injury in Belgrade — and both he and fellow defender Jonny Evans are upbeat about tonight’s must-win encounter.

“It’s massive. Being in the leading position we threw away at least a point in Serbia,” said McAuley.

“It makes this game even bigger. We’ll be going at it right from the start.

He added: “It’s an honour to be captain and it would be nice to look back on it as a winning occasion. We know we can beat Slovenia.”

Evans said: “We have to win this one to get us back on track and try to qualify.”

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