Football: We Can Reach the Finals If We Win These Next Two Big Games; EURO 2008 GP F QUALIFIERS: CRUCIAL DOUBLE-HEADER Sat Sep 8 V Latvia Wed Sep 12 V Iceland GILLESPIE: IT'S TIME TO TURN OUR DREAMS INTO REALITY

The Mirror (London, England), September 6, 2007 | Go to article overview

Football: We Can Reach the Finals If We Win These Next Two Big Games; EURO 2008 GP F QUALIFIERS: CRUCIAL DOUBLE-HEADER Sat Sep 8 V Latvia Wed Sep 12 V Iceland GILLESPIE: IT'S TIME TO TURN OUR DREAMS INTO REALITY


Byline: Darren Fullerton Chief Soccer Writer

KEITH Gillespie believes Northern Ireland stand on the br ink of fantasyland - but only if they take maximum points from this week's Euro 2008 qualifiers against Latvia and Iceland.

Nigel Worthington's men approach Saturday's crucial Euro clash with Latvia in the knowledge that the dream of reaching next year's finals in Austria and Switzerland is alive and well.

The Irish currently sit second in an intriguing Group F - two points behind leaders Sweden and one ahead of Spain - with only five qualifiers remaining.

And Gillespie knows six points from this weekend's trip to Latvia and next Wednesday's game against Iceland in Reykjavik could help propel the country to its first major finals since the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.

"We have given ourselves a great chance," he said. "Before in qualifying competitions like this we have been dead and buried at this stage of the campaign.

"That's not the case this time.

"The way things stand at the moment, anything is possible in the group.

"It's fantastic that we are more than halfway through the group stages and we can still talk about the prospect of qualifying for Euro 2008.

"Qualifying for a major finals again for the first time in such a long time would be a dream, but that's our aim.

"We know there is a long way to go and no one will be getting carried away, but fingers crossed we can go into the next two games and take something from them."

Gillespie is the only survivor from Northern Ireland's last trip to Latvia, when an Iain Dowie penalty secured a 1-0 win in a European Championship qualifier in 1995.

The Sheffield United winger, who was then an audacious 20-year-old playing under Kevin Keegan at Newcastle United, says a similar result would suffice in Riga 12 years later.

"Latvia is a difficult place to go, but we won 1-0 in 1995 and a similar result would do just fine this weekend," he said.

Gillespie also believes team-mate and strike sensation David Healy, who has seven goals in his last three qualifiers and 31 goals in 57 caps, could have another major say in how Northern Ireland fare in the next seven days.

"With David in the form he is at the moment, you almost feel anything is possible," said Gillespie. …

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Football: We Can Reach the Finals If We Win These Next Two Big Games; EURO 2008 GP F QUALIFIERS: CRUCIAL DOUBLE-HEADER Sat Sep 8 V Latvia Wed Sep 12 V Iceland GILLESPIE: IT'S TIME TO TURN OUR DREAMS INTO REALITY
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