CAN Ireland complete the job and secure automatic Euro 2016 qualification on Sunday? Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) peruses the prices.
Poland v Republic of Ireland | Sunday 19.45 | Sky Sports 1
Football, bloody hell!
There were genuine fears for what a star-studded Germany might do to a depleted Irish rearguard at Aviva Stadium on Thursday.
The Republic fielded a back-five featuring a goalkeeper yet to make a league start this season, three Championship defenders (one of which was yet to make a league start in 2015/16), and another who’s side sit rock bottom of the Premier League and conceded 18 goals in eight games. Eight of Germany’s starting XI had won the World Cup just over a year ago.
The rest, as they say, is history. Beating the best team in the world in Dublin will live long in the memory, and rightly so. Ireland hadn’t won against a top seed in qualifying since 2001 – it was a marvellous, exhilarating and unimaginable result at 7.30pm on Thursday but it’s in the history books.
But the show must go on and whilst thousands of Boys In Green supporters rock up in Warsaw this weekend, automatic qualification still hangs in the balance. This roller-coaster campaign has 90 more minutes to run and we’ve a winner-takes-all clash against Poland to look forward to on Sunday.
I’m sure you are all well aware of the permutations that would lead towards a second or third-placed finish in Group D and although Martin O’Neill’s men head to the Polish capital unbeaten in seven (W4-D3-L0), can the Greens really repeat the trick against a very capable outfit in their own back yard?
Of course it’s a possibility but the energy expended and emotionally draining experience of Thursday night is bound to have a knock-on effect. Since qualifying began for the 2014 World Cup, Ireland have W4-D2-L3 in away qualifiers and the four victories came in Gibraltar, Georgia, the Faroe Islands, and Kazakhstan.
However, ROI do boats a cracking record at avoiding defeat when taking on bigger fish on the road in qualifying encounters this millennium, losing only 8/41 with Germany, Sweden, Russia, France (twice), Italy, Portugal and Holland all failing to get the better of the Boys In Green.
Seamus Coleman and Glen Whelan are available to slot straight into the Irish XI but whilst we can reasonably expect O’Neill’s troops to be competitive, it’s also difficult to imagine lightning striking twice in a matter of days. The Boys In Green will again look to their miserly defence to silence Polish assassin Robert Lewandowski.
The travellers have conceded the fewest goals in the pool. Ireland have leaked just five in nine games, three fewer than Germany and four fewer than Poland. Another backs-to-the-wall master class will see Ireland in with a chance but should they concede, scoring twice or more looks highly unlikely.
Since their 2002 loss in Russia, the Republic have failed to score twice against any major nation of note. You could argue their two-goal gluts in Slovakia and Wales back in 2007 count but on the whole, you can confidently presume the Boys In Green will notch once or not at all.
Poland’s last-gasp leveller in Glasgow has ensured the White Eagles are similarly buoyant heading into this meeting but the hosts have failed to beat Ireland in three and at best price quotes of 19/20 (Coral), I’m not sure I’d be favouring them.
The teams shared a 1-1 draw when they met in Dublin in March’s reverse fixture and Adam Nawalka’s team have done their best work at the Stadion Narodowy. Like Ireland, the Poles have downed Germany on home soil and taken 10 points from a possible 12 when entertaining Group D guests.
Surprisingly only Scotland have managed to take points off Poland in Warsaw this campaign with that magic 2-2 scoreline the outcome in that encounter last year. If the Scots (who’ve failed to win away in the pool) can pinch a point, why can’t Ireland?
Since hosting Euro 2012, Poland have W5-D3-L1 in home qualifying fixtures with Ukraine the only successful away visitor. Throw in friendlies and the White Eagles have won six of their past 11 in Warsaw and are unbeaten in five. Sure, it’s strong, but bar the famous victory over the Germans, the list of guests are far from formidable.
Lewandowski is the obvious danger. He’s bagged a brace against the Scots on Thursday to take his tally to 14 goals in five matches for club and country. The Bayern Munich hitman has now notched 12 goals in nine qualifying outings and is quite comfortably Europe’s most feared forward right now. It’s difficult to resist SkyBet’s 5/4 that he scores again.
However, I’m going to take a punt and back the boys to bag a draw on Sunday. It’s a weird 33/13 price with 10Bet – 3.54 in decimals – but it just feels right. Ireland are draw specialists on the road in tough environments and the Poles are just a little too skinny at odds-on.
Those more adventurous may be keen to take the 0-0 or 1-1 correct scores but I’ll keep it simple.
Poland v Republic of Ireland – Draw (33/13 10Bet)
Poland v Republic of Ireland – Robert Lewandowski to score (5/4 Skybet)
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