Wales and Ireland Set For World Cup Qualifying Battle

Only one of Wales and Ireland can reach the World Cup.

England have qualified automatically for the World Cup in Russia in 2018, while Northern Ireland have made their way into the play off round after finishing second behind Germany in group C. Scotland are the first of the home nations to bow out after they failed to beat Slovenia in the same group as England. The Scots ended level on points with Slovakia in the battle for second place, but are knocked out by the finest of margins on goal difference.

On Monday it’s the turn of Wales and Republic of Ireland to stake their claim for a place in the tournament next year. Unfortunately the state of play in group D means that Serbia are guaranteed to take either first or second as they lead the section with 18 points. The Serbs are at home to Georgia where a victory will ensure first position and automatic qualification. Anything less than a win could see either of Wales or Ireland jump above them and snatch first spot, but in all likelihood, the two are playing for second place.

Wales won 1-0 in Georgia on Friday night, while Ireland beat Moldova 2-0 at home. That leaves the Welsh with a one point advantage, and a draw on Monday night in Cardiff will see them stay above their Irish counterparts. For Martin O’Neill’s team the equation is simple – they must win in Wales in order to take that play off place for themselves. It promises to be an intriguing battle and a must-watch game even for the neutrals.

In other groups reaching their conclusion on Monday night, Croatia find themselves in a spot of bother in group I. Iceland secured an emphatic 3-0 win in Turkey last time out, and that leaves them top of the group with a home match against Kosovo to play. If the Icelandic side win the section and take the automatic spot, it means that Croatia and Ukraine are in a two-way battle for second place. Those two sides are locked together on 17 points, and meet on Monday night in a winner-takes-all match in Ukraine.

Wales v Ireland

We’ve got three bets lined up on Monday, the first of which is a punt on under 2.5 goals in the big game between Wales and Ireland at -179   with Marathonbet.

On what is sure to be a nervous night, both sides are expected to play a safety-first tactical game where one mistake or one moment of genius could make the difference. The last two meetings between the teams have both ended 0-0, including the reverse fixture in Ireland back in March of this year.

Wales are without Gareth Bale, so the onus of creativity falls onto captain Aaron Ramsey who was employed in a free role behind Sam Vokes in the 1-0 win in Georgia. Chris Coleman knows that a draw will maintain his one-point lead over Ireland and although he has said he will go for the three points, one suspects defensive solidity will be the order of the day.

Ireland must win and while that should see them on the attack at some stage in the game, falling behind at any stage will give them a mountain to climb. Martin O’Neill is a pragmatic manager if nothing else, and he will expect his players to keep things tight as they probe for that all-important breakthrough.

For a bet at a bigger price, it’s hard to get away from the draw at +235   with Unibet.

With home advantage and only needing a point, Wales could be forgiven for holding on to what they’ve got. Most will expect Serbia to beat Georgia at home, so there is only a faint hope of overtaking that side with a win and finishing top of the group. Wales have only lost once at home in 12 internationals – a 3-2 friendly defeat to Netherlands – and if they avoid defeat on Monday they will be in the play off round for second placed sides.

Ireland have managed away wins in Austria and Moldova in this campaign, but have been held to draws away in Serbia and Georgia. Being unbeaten away in a World Cup qualifying group is no mean feat, but unfortunately for the Irish it’s a win that they need on Monday.

Ukraine v Croatia

Another game where the draw is the best bet is in Ukraine, where the stalemate is odds of +258   with Marathonbet.

A team that features Modric, Rakitic, and Perisic was expected to top group I, but a series of poor results for Croatia has left them in real danger of not even qualifying for Russia 2018. 1-0 defeats in Iceland and Turkey as well as Friday’s 1-1 home draw with Finland leaves them in the position of fighting for 2nd spot and a play off place.

They are level on points with Ukraine, but at least the advantage of goal difference means that a draw here should secure that 2nd position. Iceland are near certain to beat international minnows Kosovo and take the automatic spot, so this really is a battle for 2nd. Ukraine have home advantage, but Croatia are highly rated and were tipped by many to be Euro 2016’s dark horses before they were knocked out to an extra-time goal to Portugal.

Ukraine are solid at home. They’ve beaten Serbia, Finland and Kosovo in this campaign without conceding a goal, and a 1-1 draw with Iceland is the only blot on their copybook. Croatia grabbed away wins in Kosovo and Finland at the start of the qualifying group, but those defeats away in Turkey and Iceland have cost them dear. However, on balance they are the better side, and are fancied to get the point they need to squeeze into the play offs.

Tips Summary

Wales v Ireland – Under 2.5 goals
Monday 9th October, 19:45 GMT
Odds:  -179

Wales and Ireland to Draw
Monday 9th October, 19:45 GMT
Odds:  +235

Ukraine and Croatia to Draw
Monday 9th October, 19:45 GMT
Odds:  +258

Croatia
ireland
Russia 2018
Ukraine
Wales
World Cup Qualifiers

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