INTERNATIONAL football obsessive Mark O'Haire shares his betting thoughts on Tuesday night's Nations League contest between Republic of Ireland and Wales.
Republic of Ireland v Wales | Tuesday 16th October 2018, 19:45 | Sky Sports
Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill said he was pleased by the improvement in performance levels from the Boys In Green as they held Denmark to a dour 0-0 draw in Dublin on Saturday night.
Having shipped nine goals in their previous two competitive outings against Wales and the Danes, the veteran boss hailed the weekend clean sheet, suggesting it was the start of a rebuilding process. James McClean branded the stalemate outcome as “progress”.
O’Neill insists his team can bounce back to establish a position of strength in this group, but his assessment Denmark were ‘holding on’ was far-fetched and laughable. O’Neill claimed the introduction of Andreas Christensen with 10 minutes to play demonstrated such a belief; in fact, the Chelsea player slotted into midfield where his passing quality only consolidated Denmark’s control.
The turgid effort from the Irish will have done little to win over the doubters. The Republic managed a solitary shot on target across the 90 minutes and appeared clueless and devoid of ideas. It’s now just seven on-target efforts landed in five matches during the year, confirming this wasn’t a once-off display.
Slim green Irish shoots
Danish midfielder Thomas Delaney described Ireland’s display as “primitive” and he wasn’t far off the money. However, credit should be given to the management for finally altering and amending the formation and set-up despite playing numerous players out of position.
The switch to a wing-back system meant O’Neill had to hand Wolves’ marauding defender Matt Doherty a first international start. He became only the fourth Irishman to win the Premier League's Player of the Month award and O'Neill said the new approach was primarily to accommodate Doherty. Respect.
Sure, Doherty spent most the game defending, and although Cyrus Christie rarely put a foot wrong in his unorthodox central midfield role, Ireland were a much more robust animal at the back, although still badly lacking inspiration, invention, and the license to get forward.
Crunch game for ROI
The hosts must show more ambition in this match. O'Neill said last month that Ireland needed to win both of their home matches in this window, so the pressure is on ahead of the reunion with a Welsh team that tore them apart in Cardiff at the beginning of September.
Second seed status for the Euro 2020 qualifying draw is on the line and a second successive defeat to Ryan Giggs’ men would leave the Republic requiring a miracle to avoid relegation and demotion in the seeding system. Indeed, if they are beaten, Ireland would need Denmark to lose in Cardiff next month and then beat the Danes in turn by a considerable margin in Aarhus.
It’s a far from ideal situation, and even considering Wales arrive without their talisman Gareth Bale, it’s hard to see the ROI going too gung-ho.
Dragons to miss Bale force
Wales outplayed Ireland in the midfield department last month and – even without Bale – they have the players with the quality of movement to expose an Irish team that was fortunate Denmark did not exploit the space left on Saturday.
Joe Allen, David Brooks and Aaron Ramsey are all a cut above the home side. However, Bale’s absence will blunt the Dragons’ offensive output – the Real Madrid superstar has scored 22 goals in his past 39 competitive outings for Wales, while their competitive record with him of late is W14-D7-L4.
Giggs’ group were stuffed by Spain on Thursday in a friendly but aren’t likely to be as charitable in this encounter. I’d expect Wales to dominate the ball and look to stay tight and compact when out of possession and it wouldn’t be a great surprise to see the two teams cancel each other out.
The Dragons have fired blanks in four of their past five road trips, while since the start of 2017, Wales have only once scored twice or more on their travels and that came against China. Meanwhile, all of Wales’ last six away games have been settled ‘to nil’ either way, or have ended goalless.
The Republic have won once in their past eight and haven’t succeeded as hosts over a higher-ranked team since October 2015. Considering 10 of Ireland’s past 13 have featured fewer than three goals, I’ll have a poke on the Draw and Under 2.5 Goals (23/10 Betway) in Tuesday’s tussle.
Republic of Ireland v Wales – Draw and Under 2.5 Goals (23/10 Betway)