Hughes - We can bounce back

Northern Ireland skipper confident ahead of Czech clash

Hughes: Upbeat

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Aaron Hughes does not believe defeat to Czech Republic would spell the end of Northern Ireland's World Cup hopes.

Nigel Worthington's men lost their opening qualifier in Slovakia and Hughes is determined to bounce back against Group 3 heavyweights Czech Republic.

Hughes accepts that it is important to pick up some points but he feels Northern Ireland will still have a chance to reach the World Cup in 2010 regardless of what happens on Wednesday evening.

Aside from European minnows San Marino, Group 3 also contains Slovenia and Poland and Hughes expects it to be a tight race for the top two spots.

He said: "I would not say it is a must-win game against the Czechs. There will still be plenty of matches to pick points up.

"If you look at the other teams there are fixtures you would class as derbies. A few sides will take points off each other.

"I don't think many people would have expected Slovenia to get a draw in Poland.

Belief

"There are going to be points dropped and hopefully we won't drop too many and keep ourselves in contention.

"While we were disappointed to lose to Slovakia it has not affected our confidence or the belief we can get something against the Czechs."

Hughes is convinced that Northern Ireland can claim the scalp of Czech Republic having beaten the likes of England, Spain and Sweden at Windsor Park in recent years.

"There is something special about the atmosphere. There is an excitement and a belief among the supporters. We feed off their excitement," he said.

"If you go a goal down they try to pick you up. Something like that can make a difference.

"We also had a few windy, rainy nights and that does help. I would rather have conditions like that as opposed to the baking heat of Slovakia."