Northern Ireland host Estonia on Friday, October 7, 2011, in a second leg Group C qualifier for the Euro 2012 tournament.
Ahead of the game, there’s good news for the hosts in the form of absence of injury to their key players which means they will be able to field their best eleven on the night. This is especially heartening news for manager Nigel Worthington, as Northern Ireland are due to play Italy on October 11.
Skipper Aaron Hughes will be at the helm for the last time, before hanging up his boots. the thirty-one year old has announced that these are likely to be his last international games.
Northern Ireland have already been knocked out of the reckoning for a place in the main draw of Euro 2012, following their back-to-back losses to Serbia and Estonia, and they would be playing the game on Friday for pride and an opportunity to avenge their 4-1 defeat at the hands of Estonia, in the first leg.
Currently placed fifth in their group, the hosts would also be looking to improve their position. Northeren Ireland have lost four of their last five international matches, to Estonia, Serbia, Wales and Republic of Ireland, with a solitary win against Faroe Island.
Comparatively, Estonia have done better, by winning their last two matches, against Northern Ireland and Slovenia, but their three previous international games ended in losses to Turkey, Uruguay and Faroe Islands.
Estonia are currently in third place in Group C, a point behind Serbia, who are in second place. However, Estonia have played nine matches, one more than Serbia’s eight games.
That said, a win against Northern Ireland on Friday would keep Estonia in the hunt; if Italy beat Serbia, that would push Estonia to second place ahead of Serbia, and their qualification would then depend on the result of Serbia’s last group game.
Northern Ireland are overwhelming favourites to win the game, with most bookmakers giving odds ranging from 1-93 to 2-05 on a win for the Northern Ireland squad, while offering odds rangng from 3.47 to 3.80 on an Estonia victory. A draw attracts odds ranging from 3.14 to 3.50.
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