Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 2 August 2014

Slay Slovenia and World Cup dream will stay alive

After victory over the Poles, Northern Ireland must now slay Slovenia if they are to stay at the top of World Cup Group Three.

There is, however, a little bit of a false look to the standings, given the amount of games teams still have to come and the fixtures they have remaining.

Still, the one place you want to be is top and after that it’s up to the other teams to knock you off your perch.

Everyone is in action again on Wednesday evening and after that we’ll get a better picture of what is going to happen three or four games from home in the race to qualify for South Africa next summer.

Northern Ireland fans will have an eye on Prague, where the Czech v Slovak derby takes place.

Six of Nigel Worthington's team ‘s 10 points came predictably against San Marino, so it was nice to finally beat one of the other contenders in the group.

Now all the other teams in Group Three have still to play San Marino at home, so The Czechs, Poland and Slovakia are virtually guaranteed another

three points.

Slovenia, meanwhile, also visit San Marino in the closing round of matches, a perfect time to play them if qualification is still in the balance.

We’d like Northern Ireland to be on 13 points after Wednesday night’s games. The Poles will have 10 from a game less played and hopefully the Czechs and Slovaks will cancel each other out, leaving them with nine and 10 points respectively.

The Slovaks will still have two games in hand on Northern Ireland, one of which is against San Marino in June.

As long as Northern Ireland win against Slovenia it will keep things ticking over until the autumn, when things will get really interesting — not least because that’s when we go to Poland.

REMAINING FIXTURES: Wednesday April 1: Northern Ireland v Slovenia, Czech Republic v Slovakia, Poland v San Marino.

Saturday June 6: Slovakia v San Marino.

Wednesday August 12: Slovenia v San Marino.

Saturday September 5: Poland v Northern Ireland, Slovakia v Czech Republic.

Wednesday September 9: Northern Ireland v Slovakia, Slovenia v Poland, Czech Republic v San Marino.

Saturday October 10: Czech Republic v Poland, Slovakia v Slovenia.

Wednesday October 14: Poland v Slovakia, Czech Republic v Northern Ireland, San Marino v Slovenia.

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