Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 27 December 2014

Swede dreams made for us to reach finals

For one night only it's time to support the men in yellow and blue?

No disrespect to the Spanish but if Northern Ireland are to keep slender hopes of European Championship qualification alive for their final match in Las Palmas, then Sweden must avoid defeat to Luis Aragones's men in Madrid on what is sure to be a nerve tingling day of action on Saturday November 17.

Northern Ireland, after Wednesday night's impressive draw with Sweden are amazingly still in the hunt for the promised land that is Austria and Switzerland next summer.

Now with the finishing line in sight, the Green and White Army know exactly what their mission is for their final two games in Group F ? victory against the much improved Danes at Windsor Park followed by a win over the superstars of Spain.

Nothing else will suffice.

But even then it's still not in our own hands unless we get the result we want from Madrid and that is why we need the Swedes to put Spain to the sword for the second time in this campaign or at least come away with a point.

For Northern Ireland boss Nigel Worthington will want to board that flight for the sunshine island of Gran Caneria knowing that his brave soldiers can determine their own fate.

A Spanish victory against the Swedes would mean Northern Ireland could still qualify, however only if Sweden lose to Latvia in their final match ? and that is hardly likely.

Northern Ireland would draw level with Sweden but go through on the fact we beat the Swedes at Windsor Park - that will determine the outcome of the group (matches between the sides) if teams are level on points at the end of the campaign.

If Northern Ireland are to qualify with Sweden it would mean Spain losing their final two games so that Northern Ireland pip them for second place by one point with 23 points.

A draw between Sweden and Spain next month would see the Swedes qualify and give us hope of snatching something in Gran Caneria.

We would finish level on points with Spain but go through having beaten them in Belfast.

But if we lose or draw with Denmark at Windsor Park then our challenge is over and the result in the Bernabeu Stadium, Madrid will be immaterial.

Denmark, who leapfrogged Northern Ireland into third place on goal difference on Wednesday night with the defeat of Latvia, should be considered out of contention for qualification even if they are able to power to victory at Windsor Park. The fact they were beaten by Sweden and Spain will count against them and 23 points will not be enough to see them book their place in the Alps.

The Danes must be ruing the fact a UEFA committee awarded Sweden a 3-0 victory after a fan ran on towards the end of the Scandinavian derby in Copenhagen.

A draw then could have made things even more interesting as the campaign draws to a close.

So it's time to become part time Swedish fans and pray for six points from our last two games.

It will be a huge ask, but as has been shown in this qualifying campaign - we should expect the unexpected.

Swede dreams are made of this?

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