Euro 2016 qualifiers: Ireland seek automatic spot with Poland win
Martin O’Neill guides his jubilant Republic of Ireland side out in Warsaw to face Poland in their final Euro 2016 Group D encounter knowing they could secure an automatic qualifying spot for France, following a famous 1-0 win over world champions Germany in Dublin.
The Boys in Green will qualify for the finals next summer with either victory over the Poles or a 2-2 result or higher-scoring draw, but still hold a chance of progressing automatically as the best third-placed team. Defeat would mean a play-off spot at worst, though a 0-0 and 1-1 draw would be enough if Germany somehow lose to group strugglers Georgia in their final fixture.
Ireland are 7/2 with Coral to secure what would be only their second ever win over Poland from five previous meetings since 2004, but they will have to contain the irresistible Robert Lewandowski, who has incredibly netted 14 goals in his last five outings for club and country.
The seemingly unstoppable Bayern Munich marksman was actually contained by a solid Irish rear guard in the previous clash last year though, which were even more effective recently against Germany, but the prolific Pole is 7/2 to open proceedings and 4/1 to dispatch a double or more.
Having previously been thankful for Lewandowski’s decisive brace over Celtic rivals Scotland, Ireland will now have to deal with the in-form finisher themselves but, with the strongest defence in Group D, are 11/2 to win to nil for a fourth consecutive qualifier.
Poland are the odds-on 4/5 favourites to emerge from home soil with three points, but O’Neill’s men have proved they are not to be taken lightly by anyone, and a draw between these nations is 5/2, though the driven Irish boss is aiming for much more.
“To beat the world champions is a sensational effort. We have reached the play-offs and we can go for it on Sunday now,” claimed the Derry-born boss.
Obviously ecstatic with his side’s performance against Germany, inflicting last summer’s World Cup winners with their first competitive defeat in a year, O’Neill called for Ireland to remain grounded and get the job done in Warsaw.
“Unfortunately we have still a long way to go yet, but it was great to beat the Germans, world champions, here today. Considering the things we had to overcome, I thought it was a fantastic effort by the players. They deserve enormous credit,” continued the Irish boss.
“It was a fantastic effort and Shane [Long] comes on and just scores a wonder-goal for us and gave us something to hang on to.
“I’m ecstatic that we have won the game. You would think that beating the Germans and not being beaten by them at all, the world champions, you would think that would be at least deserving of winning the tournament, but it’s not the case – we haven’t even qualified.”
Southampton striker Long was the hero in Dublin, possibly gaining an unwanted title of super sub in the process of firing his nation to a famous win, but the Premier League attacker is 8/1 to bag the final goal in his latest outing again, having also grabbed a 90th-minute equaliser in this fixture on home soil last year.
Rob Elliot has been drafted into the Irish set-up following an injury to Shay Given during the Germany triumph, while Everton full back Seamus Coleman and Stoke City’s Marc Wilson both return to O’Neill’s squad after recovering from knocks.
After losing just once from their nine qualifying outings in Group D, also boasting the best defensive record, Ireland will look to finish on a high by securing an automatic place for the France finals, though face a tough task with Bundesliga sharpshooter Lewandowski currently at his clinical best for Poland.
Betting tip: Shane Long scores last @ 8/1