Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill says that he is relieved to have avoided the big guns in the World Cup 2018 qualification group.
The details of the opponents were recently revealed and Ireland are in a group containing the likes of Wales, Serbia, Austria, Moldova, and Georgia. Almost all of them have an equal chance of reaching the finals. O’Neill is a manager under pressure due to various reasons. Unlike Wales, who have progressed a lot in recent times, Ireland have been an underdog for a considerable period of time. Even the arrival of O’Neill has not improved their fortunes.
At this stage, a tough draw with opponents like Spain, France, and Italy in the group stages would have proved extremely difficult for Ireland to handle. As it is, they will go into the qualification campaign with a real hope of reaching the finals. Ireland have not reached the finals of the World Cup since 2002. In fact, the team has managed to reach the finals only on three occasions in their entire history. Hence, they were relying upon a huge slice of luck in terms of the draw and this is what exactly Martin O’Neill has received. As a result of this draw, Ireland cannot only hope of qualifying for the finals but they can also hope for winning the group.
O’Neill is almost certain to have given up on the top spot had Ireland come up against the likes of Germany or Spain in the group stages. The presence of accomplished players like Gareth Bale is likely to see Wales being ranked as the favourites to top the group. The second spot is likely to be taken by Ireland with competition from the likes of Serbia and Austria. The minnows of the group are likely to be Georgia and Moldova.