Belfast Telegraph

Worthington plans Iceland treat for fans

By Mark McIntosh in Reykjavik

Twenty-four hours prior to kick-off in Latvia, Nigel Worthington cut a defensive and almost jaded character.

After a disappointing defeat and a frank exchange of views by the Northern Ireland boss and his stars, he is bursting with energy and ready to steer his country to European Championship qualification.

What a difference a few days can make.

Whatever was said between the ex-Norwich City boss and the players in the aftermath of the Riga misery has obviously restored the team spirit and together they are hoping to cook up a treat his former chief at Carrow Road, Delia Smith, would be proud of.

Bizarrely, after that defeat, Worthington's troops are closer to qualifying for Euro 2008 than they were on Saturday morning.

Only a win will be good enough in Iceland tonight - and Worthington is confident his side will come up trumps.

"A lot has been said since the Latvia game, but we have got it out of our system now and all we are thinking about is bouncing back and restoring pride," said Worthington.

" We have to go for three points but it will be vital to do it in a controlled and disciplined manner.

"Iceland have a lot of very good players and we know where they can hurt us.

"There is a lot of talk that Eidur Gudjohnsen might not make the starting line-up after injury but that will only give others the opportunity to prove what they can do.

"I've said from day one that it doesn't matter what the other team can do; it will be about how well we play and what we can take out of the match that will count.

"If the application and quality the players have shown in training is anything to go by then they will show the pride and passion we've come to expect of Northern Ireland."

Worthington expects a physical battle at the Laugardalsvoller Stadium, but that is not something Northern Ireland have ever hidden from.

After Saturday's confidence-draining defeat, he has revealed he will make changes to freshen the team up.

Michael Duff, Stuart Elliott and Kyle Lafferty are likely to make way for Stephen Craigan, Chris Brunt and Warren Feeney as Worthington shuffles his pack.

He added: "I have a team sorted in my head. There will be changes from the point of view we need fresh legs to get what we need from this game.

"It's going to be a physical game and we have to match them every step of the way.

"We have the wonderful opportunity of going top of the group if we can win and that is what we're looking for.

"There is a lot of work to be done before then and I wouldn't rule out Denmark's chances of qualifying yet.

"With three games left after this one there are a lot of points to be played for and I'm sure there will be surprises to come.

"We are treating Saturday's defeat and performance as a one-off and we are all looking to put things right.

"Everyone has the same goal in mind and we are all desperate to succeed."

A win in Reykjavik this evening will be another hurdle successfully cleared - then, and only then, can we start to think about the home straight.

Belfast Telegraph


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