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November 14, 2012 7:45 PM GMT
Windsor Park — Belfast
Referee:‬ V. Shvetsov‎
Attendance:‬ 12327‎
90+6′ David Healy

Northern Ireland - Azerbaijan Preview: Michael O'Neill's men look to build on Portugal point

The Green and White army picked up an incredible result against Ronaldo & Co last month but must stay grounded for key clash against one of Group F's whipping boys

By Tom Marshall-Bailey

Nani versus Northern Ireland 2

Northern Ireland
Hughes, Cathcart, McAuley, McGivern

Davis, C Evans, Baird, Brunt
Healy, Lafferty

Abisov, Levin, Sukurov, Medvedev

Mamadov, Sadigov, Certoqanov, Huseynov
Aliyev, Nadirov

Peterborough midfielder Grant McCann has withdrawn from the squad for personal reasons. The 32-year-old's wife is set to give birth and he has returned home, ruling himself out of Wednesday's key clash.

McCann is the fifth player to drop out of Michael O'Neill's original 24-man squad after injuries to Manchester United defender Jonny Evans (groin), Hull City's Alex Bruce (knee) and forwards Andy Little (foot) and Jamie Ward (hamstring).

O'Neill responded to Ward's departure by calling up uncapped Inverness striker Billy McKay and has also added Liverpool prodigy Ryan McLaughlin and Burnley full-back Danny Lafferty to the squad.

West Brom centre-half Gareth McAuley returns from suspension while Chris Brunt and Shane Ferguson return from injury.

Meanwhile, Berti Vogts, Azerbaijan’s German head coach, has included no fewer than five uncapped players in his squad for Belfast.

  • Niall McGinn scored his first goal for Northern Ireland at the 19th attempt, when they held Portugal to a 1-1 draw last month.
  • McGinn (pictured right) has started only nine games, with his other 10 caps earned off the bench. The Donaghmore-born midfielder has also been an unused substitute on a further six occasions.
  • The draw in Porto was Northern Ireland’s 100th stalemate in competitive matches.
  • Out of a total of 466 competitive games, the Green and White Army have won 116 and lost 250, scoring 503 goals and conceding 952.
  • Azerbaijan head coach Berti Vogts took charge of 102 German international games and won 66, a success rate of almost 65 per cent.
  • The two sides have faced each other just twice, the first meeting in 2004 was a 0-0 draw, while Northern Ireland won their second encounter, in September 2005, 2-0.

Field Report
Reader's Predictions
Top 3 Predictions
Head to Head
World Cup Qualification 2014 (Europe) ‎(WCQE)‎ 11 Oct 2013 Azerbaijan 2 - Northern Ireland 0
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World Cup Qualification 2014 (Europe) ‎(WCQE)‎ 14 Nov 2012 Northern Ireland 1 - Azerbaijan 1
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Last Five Matches
Team News
Available Squads
25Roy CarrollGoalkeeper
18Aaron HughesDefender
5Chris BairdDefender
3Craig CathcartDefender
-Daniel LaffertyDefender
22Gareth McAuleyDefender
14Shane FergusonMidfielder
7Niall McGinnMidfielder
6Steven DavisMidfielder
-Dean ShielsStriker
14Kyle LaffertyStriker
12Alan MannusGoalkeeper
-Michael McGovernGoalkeeper
23Ryan McGivernDefender
-Ryan McLaughlin
11Chris BruntMidfielder
8Corry EvansMidfielder
14Oliver NorwoodMidfielder
11Paddy McCourtMidfielder
-David Healy
-William GriggStriker
-Billy MckayStriker
Players to Watch
Chris Baird
Chris Baird
Position: Defender
Squad Number: 5
Games Goals YC RC
6 0 2 0
The Fulham utility man has impressed in his new-found midfield role this season and could prove vital in a match that is likely to be won in the midfield battle. Baird's resilience will be key to any sort of positive result for O'Neill's side in this game, while he has shown a handy knack for goalscoring with the Cottagers recently.
Vugar Nadirov
Vugar Nadirov
Position: Striker
Squad Number: 0
Games Goals YC RC
5 0 2 0
The striker's games to goals ration is not the greatest (just 4 in 46 international appearances) but the Azeri's youngest-ever player is is often charged with creating openings for his colleagues, and his work rate and pace could trouble a Northern Ireland backline yet to keep a clean sheet this campaign.
After last month's morale-boosting 1-1 draw in Portugal, O'Neill will hope his men can use the result to finally push on in Group F, having picked up just two points in total so far. Northern Ireland should be confident about picking up a first win of the campaign against a struggling Azerbaijan side, but must tighten up at the back and hope to claim a first clean sheet at the same time.
Editor's Prediction
Group A Matchday 4
Times In BST
Top Scorers
Player   Goals Penalties
Robin van Persie Robin van Persie
Manchester United
11 2
Edin Dzeko Edin Dzeko
Manchester City
10 0
Mesut Özil Mesut Özil
8 3
Zlatan Ibrahimovic Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Paris St. Germain (PSG)
8 1
Cristiano Ronaldo Cristiano Ronaldo
Real Madrid
8 0