The Road To Russia – Ireland face Moldova and Wales In Crunch Ties
After a defeat to Serbia – and, perhaps more importantly, an abysmal performance against Georgia in Tbilisi – Ireland require the perfect week to keep their World Cup dreams alive.
Catching the Serbians at the head of the table might be wishful thinking at this stage, but leapfrogging the Welsh is still a distinct possibility. And while we’d hate to be accused of getting ahead of ourselves, the news that Gareth Bale is struggling with a calf injury has us dreaming of what could be in Cardiff next week!
First thing’s first, though; Moldova arrive in Dublin on Friday with their hearts set on ruining our hopes. On paper, the tie seems a foregone conclusion; the Eastern Europeans are yet to win a game in this campaign, and are firmly regarded as the whipping boys of the group. Stranger things have happened, though, which means our boys need to be at their best – and these four should be key over the next seven days…
We’re not going to go full Eamon Dunphy here, so we’ll leave it to Martin O’Neill to decide whether the Dubliner starts or not! One thing is certain though; the Norwich midfielder is Ireland’s most creative player, so whether it’s a late cameo or a feature-length role, Wessi could be the difference. Against Serbia he dovetailed perfectly with David Meyler, and the prospect of the pair reuniting for the two upcoming fixtures is a tantalising one.
Embodying the type of physicality and pragmatism that made Richard Dunne and John O’Shea such mainstays in the set-up for more than a decade, the Brighton centre-half is now the lynchpin in Ireland’s rearguard. His goal against Georgia was a rare bright spot on an otherwise grim evening. He was, though, at fault for Moldova’s goal in the 1-3 win earlier in the campaign; you’d better believe he’ll be looking to make up for that one!
Since the long-serving Robbie Keane bade farewell to the international scene, the Southampton man has taken up the baton as the goalscorer-in-chief – but it’s been a barren spell for the Tipp-born striker of late. He was, of course, the man to put the ball in the German’s net (in case you’d forgotten that one!), and a return to form right now would be perfect timing. Regular starts in the Premier League mean match-sharpness shouldn’t be an issue; now it’s just a matter of putting a few in the onion bag!
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