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Capellos Russia suffer new Northern Ireland delay
Published : 23 Mar 2013 16:46:54
Fabio Capello's Russia saw their World Cup qualifier with Northern Ireland postponed for the second time in two days on Saturday as the unseasonal snow plaguing Britain once again made conditions at Belfast's Winsdor Park unplayable.
The Group F match was originally due to be played Friday but was put back until 1500GMT Saturday as a result of a deluge of snow.
FIFA regulations state that in such cases every effort must be made to play the match following day but continued bad weather always made that seem a forlorn hope and Norwegian referee Tom Hagen called the game off again on Saturday morning, with ice on the pitch the official explanation.
With Russia heading to London for a friendly against 2014 World Cup hosts Brazil at Chelsea's Stamford Bridge ground on Monday, it may now be several months before they play this World Cup qualifier.
Windsor Parks lacks facilities associated with more modern and better-appointed grounds such as undersoil heating but Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill said the modestly-financed Irish Football Association had done all it could in the circumstances caused by "freak weather" conditions.
"We experienced freak weather over a short period of time, from late Thursday and early Friday -- freak weather which would have been challenging for any association to get the game on," he said.
"At the end of the day there are more modern stadia that could maybe deal with it but it's the first time in history it has happened (to Northern Ireland), so it's not something we haven't managed well, or have mis-managed over time.
"We certainly wanted to play on Friday and we also wanted to play today (Saturday), but I'm not completely sure the Russians were so keen about today.
"Either way, the referee made a quick decision this morning and said that for the safety of the players it was unrealistic to think we could play."
Now Northern Ireland will hope conditions ease to allow their qualifier against Israel at Windsor Park on Tuesday to go ahead as scheduled.
Meanwhile talks will begin on when to re-arrange the match against Capello's side, with Russia understood to favour the June window when they already have a qualifier lined up.
Russia lead Group F with 12 points, four clear of Israel, with Northern Ireland well back in fourth place with three points.