After Sunday’s action the calculators are now at as Wales and the Republic Of Ireland prepare to face off in what is almost a sudden death encounter between the two nations. Almost because there are still a number of permutations that could see Wales qualify with a draw but it is fair to say both countries will be leaving absolutely nothing behind when they face off in Cardiff later this evening.
Both Chris Coleman and Martin O’Neill had to mastermind a penultimate hurdle to be cleared on Friday night and it is a test that they passed with full marks. Wales’ exam in Georgia was slightly tougher as they edged the hosts by a single Tom Lawrence goal.
While the Republic Of Ireland made relatively light work of Moldova after Daryl Murphy’s early brace. The performance was perhaps not the most exhilarating at the Aviva Stadium and it was one that drew complaints on social media but at this stage it ultimately does boil down to pragmatism over points.
Not only are the two nations going up each other in a bid to secure second they could still both win Group D if Serbia fail to beat Georgia. If the Republic were to top the group they would have to beat Wales by three goals and hope that Georgia beat Serbia by two goals.
For Wales a win for them and a defeat for Serbia would see them top the group while once again a 2-0 defeat for Serbia would also be enough if the Welsh were to pick up just a point. A point that would shut out the Boys In Green, but a point may not be good enough to reach the play-offs either.
That is because both teams will have a keen eye as to what is going in Kiev when the Ukraine play host to Croatia. If Croatia or Ukraine win then they would leapfrog Slovakia as the worst ranked team and depending on Wales’ result would overtake them also.
So if Wales and the Republic Of Ireland draw and Croatia or Ukraine win then ultimately it would be a draw that locks them both out of the play-offs. So in a sense it is winner takes all, not in it’s most literal sense but if they do not want to rely on other results then it has to be played as a cup final, it is as simple as that.
There will also be the undercurrent from their last meeting back in March when Seamus Coleman suffered a broken leg after a tackle from Neil Taylor. Bad blood is perhaps the wrong terminology but you get the feeling the Irish contingent will want to get the job done for the Everton full back who will be watching at home.
Another person who will be watching from the sidelines is Gareth Bale who misses out this titanic clash through injury, his absence is undoubtedly a massive blow but the good news from Madrid is that he is expected to be fit for November should Wales get to the play-offs.
Will they get the result required though to be honest this is a really tough one to call especially when you add in the extra layer of a win perhaps still not being good enough. I’m just glad I am a neutral and can watch this one unfold, I get the feeling this one is going to be tense.