[dropcap]A[/dropcap]t last, a meaningful World Cup Qualifier and what a game in prospect tonight at the Cardiff City Stadium where Wales take on the Republic Of Ireland.
The maths of Group D are quite complex but with Wales sitting a point clear of the ROI a win for them tonight on home soil will secure a World Cup qualifying play-off place.
A draw for Wales guarantees them second place but changes the parameters to a ‘potential’ play-off spot.
There’s a further axis of interest if group leaders Serbia slip up at home to Georgia, both Wales and Ireland have a chance to secure an automatic World Cup place.
For Ireland, it’s simpler – only a win will do to secure a play-off place and they could even top the group if Serbia lose to Georgia but we are in the realms of a 25/1 chance about that happening.
The permutations are interesting mathematically and should also strongly guide your punting.
My initial instinct would be that this would be a low scoring affair as it has been for the last two times these two sides have met with 0-0 draws on both occasions.
But surely tonight both teams have to go for it – and we could see an explosive game with plenty of goals given that neither side can really rely on the draw.
Add to the mix that an early goal for Wales would see an all out assault from Ireland which could easily and quickly see more goals (at either end).
Certainly Wales manager Chris Coleman sees things a similar way. He said: “We’re on dangerous ground if we go in with a game plan of trying to soak the pressure up for 90 minutes.
“We are too good to do that. We’ll go and attack, go and score goals. We have to do that – it’s our strength.
“A point may be OK, but we’ll go for three points. That’s the way it’s set up.”
Ireland’s manager Martin O’Neill said: ”I think we can win the match. I felt it was always going to be like this. When we get off to a decent start (in qualifying), the mindset changes a little bit in terms of points.
“But if you had said to me right at the beginning when the group was drawn that we’d have to go to Wales and win – and we were down as fourth seeds – I would have taken it. So let’s go for it.”
Gareth Bale remains the significant absentee for Wales.
Wales v Republic of Ireland
FIFA World Cup 2018 Qualifier
19:45 S4C / Sky Sports Football / Sky Sports Main Event
HEAD TO HEAD RECORD
(Maximum 10 matches)
Mar 2017 WORLD CUP Ireland 0-0 Wales
Aug 2013 INTERNATIONAL Wales 0-0 Ireland
Feb 2011 INTERNATIONAL Ireland 3-0 Wales
Nov 2007 EURO CHAMPIONSHIPS Wales 2-2 Ireland
Mar 2007 EURO CHAMPIONSHIPS Ireland 1-0 Wales
I have taken a view on goals and will back over 2.5 and over 3.5 goals respectively at 13/8 and 4/1 with Star Sports.
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