Republic of Ireland and Wales heading for Cardiff showdown

  • Republic of Ireland and Wales heading for Cardiff showdown

Republic of Ireland and Wales heading for Cardiff showdown

Northern Ireland are effectively already in the play-offs so the hard work is all-but-done - they just have to sit and wait for the draw.

There are nine groups of European teams aiming to reach to the World Cup, with every group victor qualifying automatically.

Rankings of second placed teams are decided with matches against the bottom side in the group disregarded.

But they never seriously came close to threatening the hosts' goal before Alexandru Gatcan was sent off in injury time for a head-butt as Irish thoughts turned to Cardiff and the hope of being one of eight best runners-up.

Ireland set up a must-win playoff decider against Wales with a 2-0 win over Moldova on Friday after a brace from striker Daryl Murphy kept them in contention for a place at next year's World Cup in Russian Federation.

Former Republic of Ireland manager Brian Kerr says the decision to hand Martin O'Neill a new two year contract before the conclusion of the Ireland's qualifying campaign as 'strange'.

Asked if McCarthy was ruled out, O'Neill said: "Well, I don't think so, no - and he doesn't want to be ruled out at the moment".

The Republic of Ireland registered an excepted victory over Moldova but much more importantly, delivered a morale-boosting performance ahead of Monday's visit to Wales.

Michael O'Neill's team are already guaranteed of second place in Group C and have a stronger goal difference than Ireland.

Left-footed winger O'Dowda was a second-half substitute in Ireland's 3-1 win over the Moldovans in Chisinau last October and he was thrust from the bench again in last month's 1-0 home defeat to the Serbs. They would need to lose their last game against Norway by hefty margin to slip out of the play-off places.

England just need a victory over Slovenia on Thursday to secure their place in Russian Federation and assuming Gareth Southgate's men do the business, Scotland can climb into second spot in Group F by beating Slovakia.

Remarkably, the results tonight mean Ireland could even get automatic qualification with a win in Cardiff though few will hold out hope of Georgia beating Serbia in Belgrade.