Cheer for Chris Coleman, misery for Martin O'Neillby Jack Kitson / 06 September 2017, 11:19Tweet
The latest wave of international fixtures proved to be a very successful surf for the quartet of Home Nations managers - Gareth Southgate, Michael O’Neill, Chris Coleman and Gordon Strachan - who all accumulated maximum points from their brace of matches.
However, the same cannot be said of Martin O’Neill’s Republic of Ireland whose hopes of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup suffered a hammer blow after they dropped five costly points…
Below we take a look at the two gaffers who were in action on Tuesday night, Coleman and O’Neill, assessing their chances of making it over to Russia next summer.
Can Chris Coleman end Wales’ 60-year wait?
Chris Coleman memorably ended 58 years of hurt after leading Wales through to Euro 2016 - their first major tournament since the 1958 World Cup. Even the most patriotic and passionate Welshman would have been hard pushed to have predicted what happened next as Coleman’s Dragons roared through to the semi-finals of Europe’s showpiece spectacle, where they lost to eventual champions Portugal.
Wales then suffered a mini European Championship hangover, winning only one of their first six 2018 World Cup qualifiers (W1 D5), however with the pressure on they responded with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Austria, followed by a 2-0 win in Moldova, with 17-year-old Ben Woodburn thunderously announcing his arrival on the international stage.
Results elsewhere means that Coleman’s men have leapt up to 2nd spot in Group D, four points behind leaders and likely group winners Serbia, and one point ahead of rivals Ireland, with two games remaining. Next up for the Welsh is a tricky trip to Georgia, who have only lost two of their last nine fixtures on home soil, followed by what is expected to be a nerve-shredding play-off spot showdown against Ireland in Cardiff.
Points during the international break— The Sack Race (@thesackrace) September 6, 2017
Martin O'Neill pic.twitter.com/b62bDP6owb
Pressure grows on Martin O’Neill after Ireland stumble
Four days ago the Republic of Ireland were joint top of Group D with Serbia, four points ahead of Wales. However, a disappointing 1-1 draw in Georgia followed by a damaging 1-0 defeat at home to Serbia have all but ended Ireland’s hopes of finishing first, while it's also hindered their chances of qualifying via the play-offs, with the Welsh jumping one point ahead of them into 2nd.
Scoring goals, just nine in qualification, has been a serious problem for Ireland who have only netted twice on home soil, while they’ve only scored 2+ goals once in their last eight matches.
It’s undoubtedly now an uphill task for Ireland who should beat minnows Moldova next month, which would set up the aforementioned Cardiff crunch clash with Wales on 9th October. A failure to make the play-offs is likely to result in the end of the road for O’Neill and Roy Keane after a four year partnership.
Martin O'Neill when asked what went wrong against Georgia:— The Sack Race (@thesackrace) September 4, 2017
"Why would I want to share that (info) with you!"pic.twitter.com/KDLlpfRMue