NEWS

N. Ireland vow to make a stand

Greece, on the verge of qualifying for the Euro 2004 soccer finals for the first time in over two decades, will be chasing victory in tonight’s concluding qualifier against lowly Northern Ireland in Athens to guarantee its place. As frontrunner in Group 6, a point ahead of Spain, Greece needs to either match or better Spain’s result in Armenia, also playing tonight, to be certain of its berth. A minor international player, Greece last reached the Euro finals in 1980, for the first time. It also qualified for the 1994 World Cup finals, but was swiftly ousted. Last in Group 6, Northern Ireland, which has failed to score in 12 games, intends to give Greece a hard time, its coach, Sammy McIlroy, warned yesterday. «We’ve missed out on qualifying. Greece wants to have a party, but we don’t want to take any part in it,» said McIlroy, who added that his side had traveled to Athens to «make the game as hard as possible for the Greeks.» The Euro 2004 finals will be held in Portugal next summer. The game today starts at 7 p.m.