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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 October 2006, 08:51 GMT 09:51 UK
N Ireland ranked above Republic
Northern Ireland manager Lawrie Sanchez
Lawrie Sanchez has guided Northern Ireland into the top 50
Northern Ireland have overtaken the Republic of Ireland in the Fifa rankings for the first time.

After beating Latvia in their most recent Euro 2008 qualifier, Northern Ireland have risen 13 places to 45 while the Republic slip to 49.

It is Northern Ireland's highest ranking since 1995 and the Republic's lowest for eight years.

Steve Staunton's Republic suffered a 5-2 defeat in Cyprus before holding the Czech Republic to a draw at home.

Under Sanchez, Northern Ireland have risen from 124th place in the rankings.

It is an amazing transformation from when Sanchez took over from Sammy McIlroy less than three years ago.

"When I took over the best part of three years ago we had not scored for 13 games in something like two years, and we had not won in 14 games," said Sanchez.

"I said at the time the first thing was to score a goal, the next was to win a game and the third was to improve our world ranking from 124th.

"We scored in our first game, won our second, are now 45th in the rankings."

The team have proven their worth and now we are getting the respect

Lawrie Sanchez

Sanchez brought in some new players but his success has been built on a mix of established names and new blood.

"It has been a mixture of the experienced players who stayed on - some of those who could not cope with what we wanted fell by the wayside - and we re-energised with some fresh blood from below," he added.

"That is the thing with being an international manager, you cannot buy players - the only way to bring them in is to regenerate from the bottom.

"Some players in particular have responded magnificently, such as Steve Davis - you sometimes forget how young he is - and David Healy, who has played in 24 out of the 28 games while I have been in charge and scored 16 goals."

Sanchez was furious with the reaction to Northern Ireland's 3-0 defeat by Iceland in September - so much so that he allegedly handed in his resignation after the side's famous 3-2 win over Spain in the following match.

He explained his displeasure, saying: "My argument was that there was a lack of respect for what the team had achieved and to be vilified for one poor game was not right and denigrated all the hard work.

"Three games later, and the team have proven their worth and now we are getting the respect."


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