Ireland were handed a fairly kind draw in World Cup qualifying Group A. While Portugal, as top seeds, will be heavy favourites to win the group, Serbia as second seeds will be seen by Ireland manager Stephen Kenny as a team we can finish above into 2nd place.
Serbia were in Ireland’s last WC qualifying campaign which also included Wales as top seeds, Austria, Georgia and Moldova. Serbia finished top of the group where Ireland finished 2nd knocking out Wales and Austria to get a play-off against Denmark. The 5-1 hammering from Denmark was the beginning of the end for Martin O’Neill’s team and we haven’t recovered form wise from that defeat.
But the truth is if Kenny’s boys take their recent form into this qualifying group we will be doing well to finish ahead of Azerbaijan in the group. We scored one goal in 2020, haven’t won since beating New Zealand in a friendly in 2019 and the last half decent team we have beaten in a competitive game was Wales in October 2017, you can see our grim results here. In fairness we did beat the mighty Gibraltar twice in 2019!!
So no team in the group will be worried about facing Ireland who are very much a long shot to make it to the World Cup in Qatar, if you fancy a flutter on those markets get the promo code for Betfair which allows you to claim free bets when registering as a new customer.
While it’s been a terrible few years for Ireland and manager Kenny has had a poor start, there is still reason to be hopeful, a full squad (it was decimated by injuries and covid in October and November) coupled with the team clicking under Kenny can make Ireland a solid European team again. We showed in our recent games against Slovakia away and Wales at home that with a bit of time Kenny can get the right formula to work.
As for the fixtures we have been handed a really tough first game away to Serbia, if Kenny can get through that game without losing then it could set the team up with a bit of momentum with Luxembourg and Qatar at home in the next two games in March.
We then face Portugal away in September followed by home games against Azerbaijan and Serbia. The last time Ireland had Portugal in a qualifying World Cup group was for the 2002 WC, which we qualified for knocking out Holland in the process to finish 2nd, nobody gave us a chance then of qualifying and we made it.
Prediction: Ireland to finish 3rd with a slow start to the campaign too difficult to recover from. The team improved as the campaign went on and the FAI to be patient and give Kenny another campaign to qualify for Euro 2024.
Words Carl McMahon