Ireland get dream 2018 World Cup qualification draw

Martin O’Neill’s side will face Wales, Austria, Serbia, Georgia and Moldova in Group D

 Aleksandr Kerzhakov draws Ireland in World Cup qualification Group D. Photograph: Reuters

Aleksandr Kerzhakov draws Ireland in World Cup qualification Group D. Photograph: Reuters

 

Martin O’Neill will be relieved to have avoided the continent’s biggest guns in the draw for the European section of the World Cup 2018 qualifiers this afternoon in St Petersburg where Ireland were placed in Group D along with Wales, Austria, Serbia, Moldova and Georgia.

Austria played a key part in ending Ireland’s hopes of making it to Brazil for last year’s World Cup but the team’s most recent encounters with the group’s other main sides have been in friendlies with Serbia winning 2-1 in Dublin in March of last year and an Irish team still managed by Giovanni Trapattoni drawing nil all in Cardiff the previous August.

Georgia are in Ireland’s current qualifying group and the team won in Tbilisi at the start of the current campaign.

O’Neill had hinted beforehand that he saw the Welsh as an attractive draw on the basis of the speed with which they have climbed the international ranking ladder to earn the status of top seeds.

The northerner suggested that getting the likes of Germany again would effectively leave Ireland chasing second place and a play-off spot but he may hope for better than that now.

That said, Chris Coleman’s side have produced a number of very strong results over the course of the current campaign and appear to be well on course to qualify for France next summer.

They also have a number of very accomplished players, most notably Gareth Bale.

Elsewhere, England found themselves with another favourable qualification group having been drawn with Scotland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Lithuainia and Malta.

Michael O’Neill’s Northern Ireland have been handed a tricky group and will face world champions Germany as well as the Czech Republic, Norway, Azerbaijan and San Marino.

The goup of death tag will be applied to Group A, which contains Holland, France, Sweden, Bulgaria, Belarus and Luxembourg.

2018 World Cup qualification groups:

Group A: Netherlands, France, Sweden, Bulgaria, Belarus, Luxembourg

Group B: Portugal, Switzerland, Hungary, Faroe Islands, Latvia, Andorra

Group C: Germany, Czech Republic, NORTHERN IRELAND, Norway, Azerbaijan, San Marino

Group D: WALES, Austria, Serbia, IRELAND, Moldova, Georgia

Group E: Romania, Denmark, Poland, Montenegro, Armenia, Kazakhstan

Group F: ENGLAND, Slovakia, SCOTLAND, Slovenia, Lithuania, Malta

Group G: Spain, Italy, Albania, Israel, FYR Macedonia, Liechtenstein

Group H: Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greece, Estonia, Cyprus

Group I: Croatia, Iceland, Ukraine, Turkey, Finland

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