Date: 5th September 2009 at 9:43am
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Coventry City players Keiren Westwood and Leon Best (Republic of Ireland) and Sammy Clingan (Northern Ireland) hope to take a giant step towards playing in the ultimate competition for any footballer this week, when their respective countries face crucial World Cup qualifiers.

The Republic currently lie in 2nd place in Group 8 of the European qualifiers, just behind Italy and well clear of Bulgaria.

They travel to Cyprus this weekend hoping to avenge a 5-2 defeat to the same opponents in 2006.

Northern Ireland are also 2nd in their group, although everyone aside from San Marino is still in with a chance of making it to South Africa.

They face Poland on Saturday and then return to Belfast for a game with Slovakia in midweek.

Irish hopes lie, as always with their talismanic striker and reported Coventry City target David Healy, who has had only one first-team chance with Sunderland so far this season.

‘People say I’m lacking match fitness and lacking match sharpness but I don’t see that as an excuse,’ he said.

‘I’m still the same player and I hopefully capable of scoring for Northern Ireland.

‘Sometimes when I’ve been playing at club level I have not performed well for Northern Ireland and when I’ve not been playing for my club I’ve popped up with some goals.

‘When I scored 13 goals in the European Championship qualifiers I wasn’t always playing every week at club level.’