Wales, Ireland in 
winner-takes-all duel

Defeat for either team will end their World Cup dreams


Wales manager Chris Coleman says his side will embrace the pressure of the knife-edge 2018 World Cup qualification shoot-out against the Republic of Ireland in Cardiff tomorrow morning (Singapore time).

Victory for either team should allow them to claim one of the eight European play-off berths at their opponents' expense, and could even yield an automatic qualifying spot if Group D leaders Serbia falter in their last game at home to Georgia.

For Wales, a draw at Cardiff City Stadium would be enough to finish above Ireland in the table, but Coleman says his players will be thinking of only victory.

"We're on dangerous ground if we go in with a game plan of trying to soak the pressure up for 90 minutes," said Coleman, who will be without his talisman Gareth Bale due to injury.

"We are too good to do that. We'll go and attack, go and score goals. We have to do that - it's our strength. A point may be okay, but we'll go for three points. That's the way it's set up.

"It will be a sensational atmosphere in Cardiff and these are the games you want to be involved in. We always seem to play other countries who are involved and celebrating, but we welcome the pressure."

Celtic cousins separated by the Irish Sea, Wales and Ireland are more accustomed to facing off on the rugby pitch and have never previously tackled each other in a football match of such magnitude.

The match will be under much scrutiny not only because of the high stakes. Ireland's right back and captain Seamus Coleman suffered a ghastly double leg break in a challenge with Wales' Neil Taylor in March's 0-0 draw at the Aviva Stadium.

But Coleman swatted off the suggestion of a grudge match.

He said of the incident, which saw Taylor sent off: "You never want to see that happen, but there won't be any mention of the unfortunate incident.

"But, even before what happened, it was a physical game and we expected it to be. We were all absolutely devastated at what happened."

Surprise semi-finalists at Euro 2016, Wales have not played at a World Cup since 1958 and could finish a qualifying campaign unbeaten for the first time in history.

A damaging run of five successive draws appeared to have ended their qualification hopes, but consecutive wins - and clean sheets - against Austria, Moldova and Georgia have got them back on track.

In Bale's absence, Derby County forward Tom Lawrence scored a fine first international goal to give Wales a 1-0 win away to Georgia on Friday.

Martin O'Neill's Ireland are attempting to reach a first World Cup since 2002.


Ranked 34th in the world by Fifa, they trail Wales by 21 places, but have not lost to them in seven encounters, stretching back to a 1-0 defeat in a friendly in Dublin in 1992.

O'Neill will welcome back wingers Robbie Brady and James McClean after the pair missed Friday's 2-0 win over Moldova through suspension.

While Wales are without Bale, O'Neill believes the absence of Coleman is "as big a loss to us".

Wales have not lost at home in a competitive match since a 3-0 defeat by Serbia in September 2013, but O'Neill believes his side can pull off a result.

"We can win the match," he said.

"I felt it was always going to be like this. But if you had said to me right at the beginning when the group was drawn that we'd have to go to Wales and win - and we were down as fourth seeds - I would have taken it. So let's go for it." - WIRE SERVICES

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