INTERNATIONAL football obsessive Mark O'Haire shares his betting thoughts on Thursday night's Nations League contest between Wales and the Republic of Ireland.
Wales v Republic of Ireland | Thursday 6th September 2018, 19:45 | Sky Sports
Meetings between Wales and the Republic of Ireland have rarely produced goal-filled encounters and it might be worth following that familiar pattern when the two teams lock horns in Cardiff on Thursday night for their Nations League opener.
Home boss Ryan Giggs insists there’ll be no thoughts of revenge from the hosts after the Boys In Green ended Wales’ 2018 World Cup qualification hopes last October. Chris Coleman was in charge for that tie, but with Giggs now calling the shots, the Dragons are keen to focus on the here and now.
It will be Wales’ first fixture under the Manchester United legend in the capital after playing three games in China and the United States. Steady progress has been made with China thrashed 6-0 before a 1-0 reverse in Uruguay back in March. Meanwhile, an experimental side held Mexico to a 0-0 draw in May.
Hal Robson-Kanu has retired from international duty since and there’s no place in the squad for Neil Taylor. However, Paul Dummett has ended his self-imposed exile from the Dragons scene and star man Gareth Bale has been included in the roster following a superb start to the season in Spain.
On paper, it’s a strong group available for Giggs to select from and despite failing to beat Ireland in their past eight meetings, Wales should be favoured to at least avoid defeat at the Cardiff City Stadium.
Issues for Ireland to address
With Wales’ pool of players appearing to be in decent shape, the same cannot be said for the Republic. Martin O’Neill’s trimmed squad has excluded the likes of Harry Arter and Shane Long – two of Ireland’s few regular Premier League performers – through injury issues and personality clashes.
Arter withdrew from the squad because of a difference of opinion with assistant manager Roy Keane, while the Declan Rice saga has threatened to overshadow any thoughts of a new beginning, 10 months on from the haunting 5-1 hammering by Denmark in Dublin..
James McClean, James McCarthy, Robbie Brady, Scott Hogan and Sean Maguire have also been ruled out with fitness concerns leaving the Boys In Green severely lacking in midfield and attack. The visitors will once again look to focus on the defensive-sided of the game with few incisive, inventive or inspirational offensive options.
The betting angles
Seeing as this is the first ‘competitive’ contest for the two nations in almost a year, it makes sense to tread relatively carefully. Therefore, I’m happy to have Wales onside but with the cushion of the Double Chance market enabling us to profit should the match end all-square.
Obviously, that selection is too short to entertain here so if we head to the Same Game Multi option from Betfair and tick Under 2.5 Goals, as well as Wales in the Double Chance market, we can support a 0-0, 1-1, or a 1-0 or 2-0 Wales win at odds of 4/5, which holds plenty of appeal.
Ireland’s strength is defensively and the pair played out two World Cup qualifiers featuring a grand total of one goal in the past 36 months. Go back further and five of their last seven duels between the two have settled by a single goal and so a similarly cagey affair could be on the cards.
The Republic have shipped more than a solitary strike just four times in competitive action under O’Neill – two of those fixtures came at Euro 2016 – while only four of their previous 22 qualifiers (when excluding Gibraltar) featured more than two goals scored.
I'll also be happy to back Bale to score first at 7/2 (Betfair) quotes. The Welsh wizard has notched 26 goals in his past 43 appearances for the Dragons, averaging a goal every 139 minutes and started the season with a goal in each of Real Madrid's three La Liga games.