As the European section of the World Cup Qualifiers reaches it’s final fixtures Group D is very evenly poised as three and perhaps even four nations look to fill the two all important berths. Serbia, Wales, Republic Of Ireland and Austria will all play a part in proceedings.
For Austria it is a case of being from the outside looking in as they currently find themselves nine points behind group leaders Serbia in fourth place while knowing that the best can they hope for is a now unlikely second place finish.
Above them currently sit Wales and the Republic of Ireland as they prepare themselves for not only an all important evening of action later this evening but should results both go their way then it sets off an almost sudden death situation on Monday night in Cardiff.
Wales travel to Georgia but without their talisman Gareth Bale as they look to solidify their current second place in the group. Chris Coleman’s side are yet to have lost in Group D but it has been a case of too many draws which sees them occupy second and not first place.
Eight previous matches has warranted three wins and five draws and two of those dropped points came at the hands of their opponents this evening, that being Georgia. Wales have a trip to Tbilisi before and it was certainly one to forget as they were handed a 5-0 thumping back in 1994 as part of the qualifiers for Euro ’96.
They will look to banish any ghosts from 23 years ago especially manager Chris Coleman who was part of the Wales lineup on that miserable afternoon. Should they manage to do so then it would heap even more pressure on the Republic Of Ireland who play a couple of hours later.
Martin O’Neill’s side play host to Moldova at the Aviva Stadium a fixture that they are expected to win especially as the traveling Moldovan’s have only drawn two of their eight World Cup qualifiers. For the Boys In Green taking just a point from the last possible six has been a hammer blow to their hopes of qualification.
They drew with Georgia last month and they will be hoping that the Georgians can do them a favour in a few hours but if they don’t then it becomes a must win game for the Republic. To be honest regardless of what Wales do it has to be maximum points in Dublin.
That is because there is also the danger that either the Republic Of Ireland or Wales could miss out on the play-offs completely due to the fact they could very well end up as they worst ranked team in the table of group runners up. The last thing they would want is to finish second and then not be able to progress any further,
Should Wales win and the Republic Of Ireland fail to do so then it will be Wales who will guarantee second place at least, both sides will be hoping that Austria can do them a favour tonight and beat Serbia so as to keep any hopes of topping the group alive.
However Serbia would then have to drop points at home to Georgia on Monday and that looks a particularly unlikely prospect. Wales could snatch top spot if they win both matches and Serbia only pick up a point while the Republic Of Ireland would have to win both games by a cricket score and hope Serbia do the reverse.
From a neutral’s point of view, I would like to see Wales and the Republic Of Ireland go to wire on Monday night and play in a virtual play-off to secure second place. I’m not sure fans of either of these two nations will feel quite the same as there might not be any fingers left by the start of next week.