Wales and the Republic of Ireland have made solid starts to their World Cup 2018 qualification campaigns and they should both be confident of picking up more valuable points on the road to Russia on Sunday.
Wales’ unexpected run to the semi-finals of Euro 2016 has raised expectations in the country and the hope is that the Dragons can now regularly qualify for the major tournaments after decades of disappointment.
Coleman’s side showed that they are more than capable of competing with the established European nations in France this summer and now they must maintain their good form and prove qualifying for the Euros was no fluke.
They sit top of Group D after following up their 4-0 hammering of Moldova in their first qualification game with a very creditable 2-2 draw in Austria in the week. A home clash with Georgia, who have lost their first two games, will not be straightforward but Wales, backed by a passionate home crowd, should have too much for their opponents.
Their reliance on talisman Gareth Bale has been well documented but the fact is that the Real Madrid star is a world class talent and therefore can dominate lesser teams like Georgia when he’s in the mood. Another 4-0 is unlikely and Georgia may prove difficult to break down but a 2-0 success, which can be backed at 17/4, looks appealing.
Ireland, meanwhile, were narrow 1-0 winners over Georgia on Tuesday and travel to take on the weakest team in the group, Moldova, aiming for back-to-back victories (Ireland 20/49, Moldova 29/4, draw 16/5 – Match Betting).
O’Neill’s men were somewhat unlucky to be knocked out by hosts France in the last-16 stage at the Euros in the summer and, like Wales, showed enough in the tournament to suggest they are now good enough to finish in the top two in Group D – even though second place only offers a play-off place with the winners guaranteed their passage to Russia.
The Irish displayed all the battling qualities needed to progress in their first away game in the group when drawing 2-2 in Serbia and they will have to turn in a similar sort of performance in Moldova to get another positive result.
Their opponents are bottom of the group but, as such, will be desperate to get some points on the board. Ireland must not underestimate them but a narrow away victory, with 2-1 – on offer at an attractive 17/2 – fancied.
The other two countries in the group, Serbia and Austria, square off in Belgrade and this is expected to be a tight affair with a draw at 11/5 offering decent value.
Elsewhere on Sunday, there’s action in Group G with Spain (20/67) and Italy (4/19) tipped to have few problems away from home at Albania and Macedonia respectively, while in Group I Euro 2016 surprise package Iceland (29/20) will look to stun Turkey (37/20), who have yet to win in qualifying.