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Wednesday, 16 August 2006


England 4-0 Greece

Finland 1-2 Northern Ireland Rep of Ireland 0-4 Holland


By Charlie Henderson

"The 45,000 who did bother to turn up have had value for money. England were outstanding in the first half. Now the FA can look forward to selling more tickets for the Euro 2008 qualifier against Andorra next month. England have exorcised the ghost that was the 2006 World Cup finals. Not bad Mr McClaren; keep it up please."
Howard Nurse, BBC Sport Interactive football editor at Old Trafford.

"A fantastic start under Steve McClaren. Everybody goes home happy. It was a very professional performance in the first half when the job was done and they killed the game off. Afer that it petered out but you can't blame the players for that, they've got big games coming up at the weekend. Stevie Gerrard was fantastic and Owen Hargreaves was excellent in front of the back four where he hardly gave the ball away. He has made that role his own."
Danny Mills, BBC Five Live Sport

2157: FULL-TIME England 4-0 Greece
And that is that. The Steve McClaren era gets off to a winning start, meaning the only England boss who has lost his first match in charge is Sir Alf Ramsey.

2155: There will be two minutes of added time in which England will look to add a fifth with their first goal of the half. Don't bet on it though.

2154: Our football editor gave top billing to Steven Gerrard, but what does he know about football? Owen Hargreaves is announced as the man of the match.

"Steve McClaren has permitted himself a smile for the first time. Happy at last and a good start."
Jonathan Legard, BBC Five Live Sport

2148: Giorgios Karagounis fizzes in a shot from the right which Chris Kirkland tips around his post. A fine save from the substitute who will be on loan from Liverpool to Wigan this season.

"The game is won and I think Steve McClaren has made a raft of subsitutions because the Premiership kick-off is only three days away. It's no surprise to me that Steven Gerrard and John Terry are leading the way on the BBC Sport player ratings; there's not much to separate them though my man-of-the-match is Gerrard because he's been involved in almost everything."
Howard Nurse, BBC Sport Interactive football editor at Old Trafford

2146: Change number six for England and that should be that in terms of substitutions tonight. Wayne Bridge comes on for Ashley Cole. England team-mates this week, how much on them being Chelsea team-mates next Wednesday when the Premiership champions take on Middlesbrough?

2145: A first real chance for Aaron Lennon to run with the ball. As well as his pace he shows remarkable close control but is crowded out as he attempts to get on the end of a return ball from Peter Crouch in the area.

2143: It is back to a 4-4-2 as two more England substitutes come on. Darren Bent and Jamie Carragher replace Steven Gerrard and Gary Neville.

2142: Rio Ferdinand, sporting a close crop, steps in to head away Loukas Vyntra's cross from the right. An old cliche I know, but this is a game of two halves with the second so much more even. Maybe England have taken their foot off the gas.

2140: Not many Premiership managers have been happy about the scheduling of this match and we may hear more about this from Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho as John Terry looks to be limping.

2139: Steven Gerrard sets off on a driving run but Sotirios Kyrgiakos has the measure of him and makes a fine tackle.

2136: The three-quarter mark of the match and a chance for Greece to pull one back. Ioannis Amanatidis slides in at the back post but cannot connect with the ball. He slams the sodden turf in frustration.

"Stewart Downing had a steady game before making way for Kieran Richardson. He's left the arena and gone back to the dressing rooms. It looks like he's taken a knock and is going straight for some treatment but it doesn't look serious. Aaron Lennon received a great welcome from the happy crowd. Who's David Beckham anyway?"
Howard Nurse, BBC Sport Interactive football editor at Old Trafford

2134: Those changes have led to a tweak of the formation. Steven Gerrard moves infield into a supporting role behind Peter Crouch, with Aaron Lennon going to the right and Kieran Richardson to the left.

2133: That was Jermain Defoe's last contribution as England make some more changes, but they are not wholesale as they were in the Sven-Goran Eriksson days. Kieran Richardson and Aaron Lennon come on for Defoe and Stewart Downing.

2132: Jermain Defoe chases a delightful long pass by Steven Gerrard but he is tracked all the way by Giorgios Karagounis.

2124: All eyes on Old Trafford now.

2122: FULL-TIME Republic of Ireland 0-4 Holland
Bald Norwegian muscle man Thomas Henning bends over to pick up the ball in Dublin. Steve Staunton and green-clad fans at Lansdowne Road can breath a sigh of relief that it's all over. Painful veiwing for the Irish indeed.

2119: Greece are much improved, although they could hardly get worse. Ionannis Amanatidis forces a good save from Chris Kirkland and from the subsequent corner Ashley Cole makes a fine block on the line to deny Traianos Dellas.

2114: Another good chance for Holland to make it five but Robin van Persie blazes an effort over the bar.

"It's like a mini Mexican wave. Steve McClaren is suddenly flavour of the month as he walks in front of the South Stand back to his seat."
Howard Nurse, BBC Sport Interactive football editor at Old Trafford

2113: The suited Steve McClaren walks along the touchline to his seat. He is afforded a standing ovation and a smattering of fans are bowing to him in "We are not worthy" fashion. Are these the same people who rubbished the decision to appoint him a few months back?

2110: The action resumes in Manchester. In Dublin there are 10 minutes left on the clock.

2108: The teams are back out at Old Trafford. An easy night for Paul Robinson is all over as Chris Kirkland comes on for his first cap. His appearance wins his old man close to 10,000 after he put a bet on years ago that Kirkland Jnr. would represent his country at odds of 100-1.

2105: Five for the Dutch? Not yet. Andrew O'Brien's last ditch clearance denies them a scoring opportunity before Dirk Kuyt slips the ball through for Johnny Heitinga, but he gets right underneath the ball and skies his effort high over the bar.

2100: GOAL Republic of Ireland 0-4 Holland
Nothing to cheer for the Irish. Klaas Jan Huntelaar releases Robin van Persie who runs in on goal and lifts the ball over Paddy Kenny.

2058: Something to cheer Irish fans at Lansdowne Road. The hosts are still pushing forward and Andrew O'Brien's header from Aiden McGeady's cross forces an outstanding save from Edwin van der Sar. The Manchester United man dives high to his right to claw the ball away.

"Greece have been poor and haven't looked at the races, but England are doing the job. There's an awful lot of positives out there. Stevie Gerrard has taken the game by the scruff of the neck and he's the main man, Frank Lampard has looked good as has Stewart Downing and Owen Hargreaves has been all over the place and has not given the ball away. It has been very comfortable for England, but it's a shame for Steve McClaren because he'd have wanted more of a test."
Danny Mills, BBC Five Live Sport

"We just look like a different team to the World Cup, everybody looks like they want to play."
Ian Wright, BBC Sport TV

"It's all smiles at Old Trafford. It's Greece lightning from England."
Howard Nurse, BBC Sport Interactive Football Editor at Old Trafford

2053: HALF-TIME England 4-0 Greece
Steve McClaren must wonder what all the fuss is about. Just 45 minutes into his tenure as England head coach and his team are flying.

2049: GOAL England 4-0 Greece
England flood forward and a goal seems inevitable. It is. Peter Crouch cannot get on the end of Gary Neville's cross from the right, but when the ball is played back in from the left by Stewart Downing he climbs to nod in his second.

2046: The Republic of Ireland respond well which is more than can be said of the Greeks. They do not look bothered about playing football.

2043: GOAL Republic of Ireland 0-3 Holland
What was that about the Irish? Rafael van der Vaart breaks the offside trap as the hosts push forward, draws the defence and then plays a square ball for Klaas Jan Huntelaar who rolls in his second of the night.

2042: GOAL England 3-0 Greece
It is all too easy for England. Jermain Defoe pounces on Loukas Vyntra's poor header and releases Stweart Downing who in turn cuts in from the left and plays an inviting low cross into the box. Frank Lampard is first on the scene and after his intial effort is blocked by Antonionis Nikopolidis, Peter Crouch taps in the follow up.

2041: Steve Staunton's changes have mixed it up for the Republic of Ireland who are playing better.

2037: GOAL England 2-0 Greece
He couldn't buy a goal at the World Cup, but Frank Lampard gets the first of the 2006/07. His break forward down the left-hand channel is spotted by Jermain Defoe and the Chelsea man's shot deflects off Paraskevas Antzas into the net. Never mind 2-0 to England, it's 2-0 to Chelsea.

2036: That rubbish pass from Takis Fyssas may have cost him his place on the bench. Greece's German coach Otto Rehhagel makes an early change and the Hearts man makes way for Panagiotis Lagos. He is now the only man on the pitch with a surname that is the same as a Nigerian city.

2035: The Republic of Ireland re-start the Dublin friendly having made a host of half-time changes in a bid to get back in the game.

2034: The Dutch are all smiles as they come back out for the second half at Lansdowne Road.

2033: Hearts defender Takis Fyssas makes a claim for the worst pass of the night. He is about six feet from a team-mate but inexplicably mis-directs the pass out of play for a throw.

2030: Steve McClaren steps down from the dugout to the touchline and gives it the old "let's wind it up" sign. He soon returns to discuss things over with the avuncular Terry Venables.

"I wonder if Sven-Goran Eriksson is watching on television? And what would he make of England's more expansive game? Goal-hero John Terry is playing as if it was the last game of his life. The slippery surface is really suiting England's passing game. It's true; the tempo is much better and the supporters have come to life which has given this friendly a sharp edge."
Howard Nurse, BBC Sport Interactive football editor at Old Trafford

2024: Steven Gerrard picks out Liverpool team-mate Peter Crouch in the box but the big striker guides a header wide of goal.

2022: GOAL England 1-0 Greece
What a script for the skipper. John Terry scores for England after an initial dinked free-kick into the box by Frank Lampard causes chaos. Antonios Nikopolidis flaps at Peter Crouch's header into the danger area but it only goes as far as Stewart Downing. His header back into the box is flicked on by Terry with Nikopolidis having gone walkabout.

"We've seen more life already from the England bench than just about the entire duration of the World Cup finals. New head coach Steve McClaren is up on his feet applauding and encouraging his players. He may not be captain, but Liverpool's Steven Gerrard has been involved in most of England's best moments.
Howard Nurse, BBC Sport Interactive football editor at Old Trafford

2020: England are building a slow but steady head of steam.

2018: HALF-TIME Republic of Ireland 0-2 Holland
The atmosphere at Lansdowne Road is very subdued. The hosts are there for the taking for Holland and Marco van Basten's boys will be looking to add to their goal tally after the break.

2014: A first shot on goal in a quiet opening at Old Trafford, but Steven Gerrard's long-range effort was not going to trouble Antonios Nikopolidis.

2013: GOAL Republic of Ireland 0-2 Holland
Suicidal football from the Republic of Ireland results in a goal for Arjen Robben. Klaas Jan Huntelaar pounces on a woeful back pass from Stephen Elliott and his neat back-heel in the box plays in Robben who drills a low shot home. That is why strikers should not come back and help out the defence.

2010: We all know what England got up to over the summer but what about their opponents? The European champions lost to Australia in a friendly but that is their only reverse of 2006. They have played four other matches, winning two.

2008: England kick off with Jermain Defoe and Peter Crouch over the ball. There's a foot in height between the strike duo. Owen Hargreaves has taken on the number seven shirt vacated by David Beckham.

2004: Worries for Wigan boss Paul Jewell. Summer signing Denny Landzaat looks in trouble in Dublin with an injury to his left arm or wrist. The Dutchman's a tough nut to crack. After treatment he's back on the pitch.

2003: Steve McClaren takes his place in the stands before the anthems.

2001: John Terry leads England out. Hopefully he's put an industrial amount of hair gel on because with this rain that spiky style will be flatter than England's efforts at the World Cup within 10 minutes. The hosts are wearing red.

2000: The teams gather in the tunnel at Old Trafford. There are only 35,000 in the crowd. Any Wags? Unlikely on a cold, wet night in Manchester. The German team of officials share what must be a great joke judging by the laughter.

1955: GOAL Republic of Ireland 0-1 Holland
Klaas Jan Huntelaar gives Holland a deserved lead at Lansdowne Road. The highly-rated young striker heads in at the back post from Robin van Persie's deep corner.

1949: The Republic of Ireland are rocking on the ropes. Andy O'Brien throws himself at a shot from Joris Mathijsen and blocks it in the six-yard box. They are far from convincing at two subsequent corners as well.

1947: Crystal Palace striker Clinton Morrison works a yard of space on the edge of the area and squeezes out a shot but it lacks any threat and is well saved by Dutch skipper Edwin van der Sar.

1945: A free-kick for the Oranje. Arsenal's Robin van Persie plays in Arjen Robben with a cheekily, disguised pass when it looked as if he'd go for goal, but the Chelsea man drags his shot horribly into the side-netting.

"Word has it in the press box that Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is about to take his seat. He's going to be watching England midfielder Owen Hargreaves one last time before deciding whether to make a bid for the Bayern Munich ace. Bayern aren't keen to sell however."
Howard Nurse, BBC Sport Interactive football editor at Old Trafford.

1941: We all know what the England team is, but what about the Greeks. They include Manchester City striker Georgios Samaras - a short journey for him then.

England: Robinson, Gary Neville, Ferdinand, Terry, Cole, Gerrard, Lampard, Hargreaves, Downing, Defoe, Crouch.
Subs: Kirkland, Young, Bridge, Phil Neville, Carragher, Brown, Dawson, Jenas, Wright-Phillips, Richardson, Foster, Lennon, Bent.

Greece: Nikopolidis, Fyssas, Dellas, Katsouranis, Antzas, Vyntra, Zagorakis, Karagounis, Giannakopoulos, Samaras, Charisteas. Subs: Chalkias, Basinas, Kafes, Salpigidis, Kyrgiakos, Gekas, Papadopoulos, Anatolakis, Amanatidis, Lagos, Georgeas.

Referee: Wolfgang Stark (Germany).

1940: Holland are enjoying the majority of possession against this new-look Irish side. Steve Staunton, who was threatened at gun point in the week, had to contend with eight withdrawals.

1937: Wigan's Denny Landzaat gets an early yellow card from the big man in black.

1934: The first man to catch the eye in Dublin is the Norwegian referee Thomas Henning - he looks a brute of a man, a cross between Pierluigi Collina and Arnold Schwarzenegger, with the Italian's hair (or lack of it) and the American's bulging biceps.

"It's pouring with rain now, absolutely lashing down under a dark grey sky. The players are getting a soaking during their warm-up but at least the atmosphere is better now."
Howard Nurse, BBC Sport Interactive football editor at Old Trafford.

1931: Holland kick-off in Dublin. There is a great atmosphere in the famous old ground and with rain in Manchester it's the only dry venue we'll be at today.

1927: Back at Lansdowne Road the teams are out. The Republic of Ireland lost their summer friendly at home to Chile. Holland reached the quarter-finals at the World Cup in Germany.

1925: John Terry gets a great welcome as he leads England out for their warm-up at Old Trafford.

"It's a sultry evening in Manchester and there's not a lot of business for the souvenir and hot-dog sellers. On my approach to the stadium, I was asked if I wanted to sign-up for a free England credit card. After England's shambolic World Cup showing, the team are very much in debt and have a long way to go before they can even think about getting back into the black. By the way, I declined the offer politely! The vast stadium is only about a third full with 45 minutes to go until kick-off. England have a lot making up to do before they're going to feel loved again."
Howard Nurse, BBC Sport Interactive football editor at Old Trafford.

1900: While one eye will be on Lansdowne Road, where the Republic of Ireland play Holland, the other will be locked on to Old Trafford and England's first match under Steve McClaren against Greece.

1858: Steven Reid will captain a Republic of Ireland side that has been hit by a host of withdrawals, Damien Duff being the latest. The hosts could have their work cut out against a strong-looking Dutch outfit in Dublin.

Rep of Ireland: Kenny, Carr, Andrew O'Brien, O'Shea, Kilbane, Finnan, Reid, Kavanagh, McGeady, Morrison, Elliott.
Subs: Douglas, Miller, Kelly, Henderson, Alan O'Brien, Murphy, Doyle.

Holland: Van der Sar, Heitinga, Ooijer, Mathijsen, De Cler, Landzaat, Van der Vaart, Schaars, Van Persie, Huntelaar, Robben.
Subs: Jaliens, Emanuelson, De Jong, Janssen, Timmer, Kuyt, Vennegoor of Hesselink.

Referee: Thomas Henning (Norway).

1854: FULL-TIME Finland 1-2 Northern Ireland
That's it. Next up for Northern Ireland are the home Euro 2008 qualifiers against Iceland and Spain in the first week of September. Next for Finland is a rollicking from Roy Hodgson judging by his face as he trudges to the tunnel.

"That's a very important result. Winning breeds confidence. It was a very composed display and that will take them into the Iceland game in a buoyant mood. The back four were superb and their only mistake led to the goal."
Jim Magilton, BBC Sport NI analyst

1853: Northern Ireland are finishing the match in the perfect place, deep in the Finland half.

1850: A late corner for Finland. One last chance? Well, they won't get a better one. Defender Hannu Tihinen meets the corner on the half volley six yards out in space but his effort is wide. There are four minutes of injury time.

1847: Just the two minutes of normal time left now. Warren Feeney is down. He gets up gingerly, holding his ribs, but the Luton man is fit to continue.

1844: Roy Carroll is booked for time-wasting. More on Alexei Eremenko's hair. From the front it looks like a pretty normal haircut, with a mass of hair products in it, but at the back he has some sort of white bushy tail - Finland's answer to the Kevin Pietersen cut of 2005.

1843: Alexei Eremenko - he of the ridiculous hair - winds it up for his team in midfield before releasing a ball for Shefki Kuqi down the right, but Roy Carroll races off his line to smother Kuqi's attempted cross.

1842: It should be all square. As he did in the first half, Tony Capaldi plays his team into danger in the box with a shocking clearance, but he makes amends by blocking Mika Vayrynen's goal-bound shot.

1841: Shefki Kuqi collects Mika Vayrynen's flick-on on his chest and volleys an effort in on goal but it thuds into Roy Carroll's chest.

1840: Finaldn use the last last of their six substitutes. Liverpool's Sami Hyypia is the man to come off with Juha Pasoja coming on.

1838: Grant McCann receives treatment on the touchline after taking an elbow to his chin. It takes time to stem the flow of blood, but stemmed it is and he soon returns.

1835: Shefki Kuqi throws himself in the air for an overhead kick in the area. He fails to make contact and his 88kg frame comes crashing to earth. It wouldn't be surprising if the tremors are felt in Omagh let alone the Olympic Stadium.

1832: Roy Hodgson remains rooted to the bench, but in delight at watching his team scoring it looks as if he may have spat out the gum. He expresses that delight with a stern look.

1831: GOAL Finland 1-2 Northern Ireland
Hope for Finland with a goal from Mika Vayrynen. Chris Baird loses possession and Joonas Kolkka finds Vayrynen who plays a neat one-two with Shefki Kuqi on the edge of the area before shaping a wonderful right-footed shot beyond Roy Carroll.

1829: Lawrie Sanchez is stalking the touchline with a brooding look and is in deep conversation with the fourth official. Roy Hodgson has barely moved all match and is chewing gum with gusto.

1826: Lawrie Sanchez makes the last of his six changes. Michael Duff replaces Aaron Hughes.

1823: The travelling fans will definitely have a good night in Helsinki with the win seemingly assured. While they sing and dance in the stands, Stuart Elliott trots off to be replaced by Ivan Sproule.

1822: GOAL Finland 0-2 Northern Ireland
An excellent move is rounded of by a Kyle Lafferty goal . Northern Ireland break from defence. It is worked up the left by Tony Capaldi before Stuart Elliott switches play to the right where Steve Jones beats his man and crosses for Lafferty to nod in his first international goal. Great stuff.

1820: Stuart Elliott is picked out in space on the right and arrows in a shot from outside the area but Jussi Jaaskelainen is behind it all the way and saves low at his post.

1816: Birmingham's Mikael Forssell is pulled from the action and Shefki Kuqi comes on. The Blackburn big man has been linked with a move to Birmingham. He gets a rousing welcome from the locals.

1815: Jussi Jaaskelainen punches away Northern Ireland's fifth corner of the night after a good spell by the visitors. Steve Jones is looking lively.

1813: Alexei Eremenko plays a wonderful low cross into Mikael Forssell from the left, but the Birmingham striker's first touch is poor and he is soon crowded out by green shirts. He really should have done better.

1811: Like London buses, yellow cards come along in twos in Helsinki. Substitute Jarkko Wiss is now in the referee's book. James Quinn will not be red-carded in a second successive friendly. He is replaced by Kyle Lafferty.

1810: James Quinn gets the first yellow card of the evening for a late challenge on substitute Mika Vayrynen. He was sent off in the friendly against Romania.

1808: A vital touch from Tony Capaldi in defence. His glanced header diverts the ball away from Mika Nurmela who was lining up a shot on goal.

1807: Steve Jones and Warren Feeney look to link up in the attacking third but the later cannot quite get on the edn of the former's through ball.

1804: They are like-for-like changes so Northern Ireland start the second half with the same system. Aaron Hughes takes on the captain's armband.

1802: Lawrie Sanchez has taken a leaf out Sven-Goran Eriksson's friendly management style - friendly as in the match, not as in he's smiling. Sanchez will be using all his substitutes in the second half and he wastes no time with three new faces out there for the second 45 - Steve Jones, Warren Feeney and Roy Carroll. David Healy, Keith Gillespie and Maik Taylor are the men to make way.

"It was a great start from the home side and you expect that. But then Northern Ireland gave an assured, accomplished performance and Aaron Hughes has done well at the back - they've had no problems and at the other end it was a good poacher's goal. If they can continue in that vein I'm sure they'll get the right result.
Jim Magilton, BBC Sport NI analyst

"It was a solid half. We took time to get going but then caused them problems. The referee's been a bit one-sided with the free-kicks but it was a good goal and one we worked on in training this morning."
Lawrie Sanchez, Northern Ireland head coach

"That's one of the best away performances I've seen in a long time. They are organised in defence and Finland aren't troubling them. It would be a great morale booster if they can get a result here."
Billy Hamilton, BBC Sport NI analyst

Finland boss Roy Hodgson has looked pensive throughout and will want to spark some attacking threat into his team. For Lawrie Sanchez it will be a case of asking for more of the same.

1743: Tony Capaldi's a bit lax in defence but Mika Nurmela is unable to make him pay for it. The 34-year-old shows his age and cannot keep the ball in play as it runs away to touch.

1741: Joonas Kolkka lines up another corner on the left but it's a tad too high and skids off the head of beanpole defender Toni Kallio, with Stephen Craigan in close attendance.

1737: Aaron Hughes concedes a corner, stabbing away a weak shot from Mikael Forssell who was stretching to reach it. Again the delivery's poor and it is no worries for the Northern Ireland rearguard.

1735: Finland have responded well to going a goal down. Some amateur dramatics from Alexei Eremenko on the left earn a free-kick but it's a poor delivery which Maik Taylor gladly gathers.

1732: GOAL Finland 0-1 Northern Ireland
Another corner to Northern Ireland and it's a goal to David Healy. He back-pedals at the back post and meets Sammy Clingan's corner with a powerful header. It's a year almost to the day since Northern Ireland scored away from home - 17 August 2005 against Malta.

1728: Mikael Forssell looks to work an inch of space on the edge of the box but Stephen Craigan's shadows his every move before stealing the ball off his toes with a perfectly-timed challenge.

1724: The balding Mika Nurmela needs to practise his heading. He ghosts in at the back post to meet a cross but nods it tamely wide with only Maik Taylor to beat.

1719: That rain in the air is now a downpour. There's not much covered seating in the Olympic Stadium so it's going to be a wet old night in the stands. On the pitch the visitors are growing into the game and win two corners in succession.

1716: Keith Gillespie gallops down the right and his deep cross is headed back into the box by Stuart Elliott and there's that man David Healy again. Not his best moment in a green shirt. It's a left-footed air shot.

1714: A first effort on goal for Northern Ireland and it falls to David Healy. He flashes a shot on target from the edge of the area which is deflected narrowly wide for a corner. Nothing comes from the corner.

1710: A great chance for the Finns. Tony Capaldi's terrible clearance, inside the box, falls to Jari Ilola, but he snatches at the ball and flashes it wide.

1709: There's rain in the air, which will make the pitch even faster. The groundsmen were watering it up until 15 minutes before the kick-off.

1707: Mikael Forssell is lucky to escape a lecture from the Danish referee after barging into Stephen Craigan under a high ball. The Birmingham striker showed little intention of going for the ball.

1705: Finland have started well and Sami Hyypia plays in Alexei Eremenko but the 23-year-old, who has a ridiculous skunk-like haircut, blazes his shot wide. He was offside anyway.

1702: Finland, all in white, get the ball rolling. It is 1902 local time.

1657: Anthem time and Keith Gillespie looks as if he's been in a fight with a jar of that stuff players smear on their chest to help them breath. He's covered in the stuff.

1656: Helsinki's not exactly Port of Spain but about 200 Northern Ireland fans have made the trip to the bowl-like Olympic Stadium.

1653: Northern Ireland can boast the only win either of these sides have scored this year, a 1-0 victory over Estonia in Belfast. The last time they won on the road was against Trinidad and Tobago in June 2004.

1648: The Finns, Jussi Jaaskelainen, Sami Hyypia, Mikael Forssell and all, have not won in normal time in 2006. There was penalty shoot-out victory over Belarus, but they have lost to Kazakhstan, Japan and South Korea and drawn with Saudi Arabia.

1644: As for Finland, their footballing summer holidays took them on the short trip across the Baltic Sea to Sweden. Their pre-World Cup friendly in Gothenburg ended in a stalemate.

1637: Obviously neither of these teams were at the World Cup, so what did they get up to in the summer? Northern Ireland played two friendlies in America and lost them both. What's more, they did not score. They went down 2-0 to Romania and 1-0 to Uruguay.

1631: Sammy Clingan has the chance to prove he is the right man to take over from the suspended Damien Johnson for Northern Ireland's opening two Euro 2008 qualifiers. The Nottingham Forest midfielder will want to cling on to the spot for those matches.

1625: The teams are in from Helsinki and David Healy has been given the honour of captaining Northern Ireland on the occasion of his 50th cap.

Finland: Jaaskelainen, Pasanen, Hyypia, Tihinen, Nurmela, Forssell, Kolkka, Ilola, Riihilahti, Kallio, Eremenko.
Subs: Kaven, Vayrynen, Pasoja, Kuivasto, Kopteff, Kuqi, Johansson, Porokara, Sjolund, Lagerblom, Wiss, Kononen.

Northern Ireland: Taylor, Baird, Hughes, Craigan, Capaldi, Gillespie, Clingan, McCann, Elliott, Healy, Quinn.
Subs: Carroll, Duff, Sproule, Jones, Feeney, Lafferty.

Referee: Michael Svendsen (Denmark).


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