The World Cup is approaching and there are many speculations about who will play. Bookmakers are already devising their wagers and people are looking for new bonuses that will help them in their bets, such as the Buffalo Wild Wings welcome bonus. We know that England have all but cemented their place in Russia for the 2018 World Cup, but what of the Celtic Nations?
The Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are all vying for the opportunity to play on the greatest footballing stage of them all. With 4 games remaining for each of the sides, it is possible for all of the Nations to reach the tournament. Here we look at each of the international sides chances of qualifying for a place in the World Cup with 4 fixtures remaining.
Currently sitting in Second place of Group C, Northern Ireland have continued there sparkling form since the European Championships.
With 4 games to go, it’s hard for Michael O’ Neill’s men not to have their hopes up for Russia – they’ve performed well in the group so far, winning every game except for a draw away to the Czechs and a 2-0 loss away to Germany.
Ahead of the Czech Republic, it’s only current World Champions and Confederations Cup winner’s Germany that sit above Northern Ireland in the group – a very respectable group position to be in.
They do, however, have 3 of their most difficult games left to play: Norway (a), Germany (h) and Czech Republic (h).
With a 4-point gap between them and the Czech Republic, Northern Ireland are allowed potentially one slip-up, but that second last qualifier against the team below them in Windsor Park will no doubt be huge and could very well determine which side has booked their place in the 2018 World Cup.
Northern Ireland’s final game is away in San Marino, and if they get that far still in contention, they will be hopeful of qualifying for a consecutive major tournament following their time at Euro 2016.
Republic of Ireland & Wales
In what is one of the most hotly contested World Cup groups, it’s still all to play for in group D for both the Republic of Ireland and Wales.
In an ideal world, both the teams would qualify for the World Cup, but this seems unlikely. With Serbia and Austria both still in contention, it would come as a huge surprise for both teams to reach the top two spots
Republic of Ireland
Martin O’ Neill and Roy Keane’s Republic of Ireland side still haven’t lost a game in the group stages so far.
Late draws against Serbia in the first game and Austria in their latest game have left the boys in green in a good position in the group.
Registering an impressive win away in Vienna in November, O’ Neill’s side rest 4 points above Wales and Austria and only behind Serbia at the top of the table on goal difference.
While they’re in a good position, the job is by no means done for the side that reached the last 16 of the European Championships last year.
A horrific injury to Seamus Coleman earlier in the campaign has sadly ruled the talismanic captain out of contention for the remaining games; which are: Georgia (a), Serbia (h), Moldova (a) and potentially massively, Wales (a).
With three away games left to play and a difficult fixture against group leaders Serbia in the Aviva, the final group match against Wales is certainly shaping up to be a tantalising encounter for the Irish.
Coming off of a tremendous European Championship run to the Semi-Final, Chris Coleman’s men have taken the foot off the pedal a little bit but still find themselves in contention.
Similar to the Rep. of Ireland, playing 6 games and losing none sounds good, but in reality the Welsh have only won 1 game – beating Moldova 4-0 in the first fixture – and the rest of the games have been draws.
If Wales start winning games, and results at the top start going their way, they could still qualify for the World Cup. There next crucial games are: Austria (h), Moldova (a), Georgia (a) and Rep. of Ireland (h).
After drawing to Georgia 1-1 in the Millennium Stadium, it will be a difficult trip to Tbilisi for the Welsh. 3 days later, on the 9th of October, they come face to face with the Irish in what could be a winner-takes-all encounter.
For the Wales team to reach the World Cup for the first time in 60 years, they’re going to need Gareth Bale and company to perform well in each of their last 4 games.
Certainly the biggest mountain to climb of all the international sides from the UK and Ireland, Scotland aren’t out of it just yet.
There was absolute heartbreak for Gordon Strachan’s men in their most recent World Cup Qualifier against England.
Losing one-nil going into the 87th minute of the game, Leigh Griffith’s scored 2 free kicks in the space of three minutes to put Scotland ahead – only for Harry Kane to equalise for England with effectively the last kick of the game and rob the Scots of a famous victory against their neighbours.
Those two points would have been vital and would have put Scotland in a far healthier position, but it wasn’t to be. Sitting in 4th on 8 points, Strachan’s side will need to win their remaining games while hoping other results go their way.
Those remaining games are: Lithuania (a), Malta (h), Slovakia (h) and Slovenia (a).
While it is very improbable that Scotland will make the grade on this occasion, they have shown signs of improvement of late. Seconds away from a win against England and a respectable home victory against Slovenia in the fixture before that shows the side are in good form.
Sadly, this good form may have come slightly too late for the Scots, and they look set to narrowly miss out on a major international tournament for the second time in 2 years, coming agonisingly close to the Euros in 2016 as well.