British Isles nations’ 2018 World Cup qualifying chances after European exploits
Lee Gormley | July 13, 2016
British Isles nations’ in World Cup qualifying
Euro 2016 has come and gone this summer, and it was a tournament full of mixed emotions for the British Isles nations that were involved on French soil.
Scotland unfortunately failed to reach the finals, but for England, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and Wales, there were plenty of highs and lows across the Channel.
After their respective campaigns, Coral now cast an eye over how each country’s performance and recent form could see them fare when the 2018 World Cup qualifiers begin later this year…
Euro 2016 proved to be another disappointing competition for England, as they endured a last 16 exit at the hands of European minnows Iceland, having finished second in their group behind fellow Home Nation Wales.
The Three Lions entered proceedings in a promising Group B, but endured an opening game draw with Russia, before narrowly overcoming Wales and then being held again by Slovakia. Their defeat to Iceland was the icing on a bitter cake as Roy Hodgson subsequently parted ways.
Experienced Premier League boss Sam Allardyce now looks the most likely candidate to take over, but he faces a tough task of overturning recent misery and underwhelming form, but they are 11/2 with Coral to not qualify for Russia in two years time.
Although, a highly promising Group F should see even an out-of-form England set up sail through, as they come up against all of Slovakia, Slovenia, Malta and Lithuania, while rivals Scotland will provide the standings’ big match-up.
Michael O’Neill’s Northern Ireland enjoyed a successful summer on French soil, impressively battling out of their group to reach the knockout stage, and were only narrowly outwitted by Wales in the last 16.
With several players set to come back from injury, such as crucial component Chris Brunt, and possessing talented youngsters like Manchester United’s Paddy McNair, the Green and White Army will be confident of booking a place in Russia.
The gallant Home Nation will have to contest world champions Germany once again in qualifying Group C, having lost to Die Mannschaft in France, as well as the Czech Republic, San Marino, Norway and Azerbaijan, making them a promising 7/1 to secure a World Cup place.
Republic of Ireland
It looked as if the Republic of Ireland’s time in France was about to come to a close in their final group game against Italy, until Wes Hoolahan delivered a pinpoint cross for Robbie Brady to header home a late winner and rally them into the knockout stage.
That goal over the Azzurri was the most enthralling moment of the Irish side’s gallant campaign, as they eventually fell short against hosts France in the last 16, having gone down to 10 men after Shane Duffy was dismissed for fouling match-winner Antoine Griezmann.
Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane’s efforts with the Boys in Green were rewarded in the aftermath of their brave exit, as the coaches were handed new long-term contracts, and the Irish will be confident of reaching the World Cup under their guidance.
They are 3/1 to do so, and will hold plenty of hope for their qualifying campaign in Group D, as they prepare to face all of Serbia, Moldova, Austria and Georgia, as well as Euro 2016 surprise package Wales.
Scotland were the only British Isles nation to fail to qualify for Euro 2016 and they will look to banish their previous disappointment by securing a spot in Russia, with Gordon Strachan’s being 3/1 to achieve such a feat.
England will be their main qualifying Group F rivals, with their clashes with the Three Lions set to be pivotal in booking a position at the 2018 event, while games against Slovakia, Slovenia, Malta and Lithuania are all winnable for a determined Scottish set up.
The Tartan nation will have been hurt by their exclusion from this summer’s showcase tournament and will be desperate to reach their first major finals since the 1998 World Cup in France. Players such as Celtic marksman Leigh Griffiths will be key to such success, with coach Strachan having committed long term too.
Chris Coleman’s Wales were undoubtedly the most impressive British Isles nation this summer, bursting onto the European stage for the first time in their history and making an immediate impact by reaching the semis.
The Dragons finished atop their group, despite an agonising loss to England early on, and then overcame both Northern Ireland and most notably Belgium to set up a semi-final encounter with eventual champions Portugal.
In that tussle it was a case of Gareth Bale versus Cristiano Ronaldo and, with the latter Real Madrid superstar having won that Los Blancos battle, Wales’ main man was impressive throughout the campaign, netting three times including against England.
The entire Welsh team performed brilliantly this summer and they are 11/10 favourites to qualify for the next World Cup on Russian territory, but must negotiate a group which also features the Republic of Ireland.