Republic of Ireland v Wales
Sunday October 11, 14.00
Live On Sky Sports Football
Ireland look for a lift
The market moved for Ireland in Bratislava on Thursday, but the earth did not.
On the same night that their Sunday afternoon opponents Wales were losing to England in an unremarkable friendly, Stephen Kenny’s side were immersed in the pressure of a playoff game in Slovakia that ended with the pain of penalty shootout defeat.
They squandered the chances to win it during the 120 minutes and set off for home with plenty of regrets, including late Covid drama that deprived them of the services of Aaron Connolly and Adam Idah. Connolly was set to start until finding out he had been deemed the close contact of a staff member that had tested positive for the virus
After the emotion of that experience, Kenny has to try and lift morale for a Nations League encounter with their Celtic neighbours. The mental and physical toll of their midweek endeavours are bound to shape the strategy and it’s hard to say with certainty that Ireland will be able to build on the promise of their Bratislava showing without knowing the position as regards personnel with Kenny dealing with a variety of factors before settling on a team. James McCarthy is prominent in a list of players feeling the impact of their efforts.
Wales come to Ireland without Gareth Bale but they do have Aaron Ramsey who missed the Wembley reverse and will bring experience to a youthful group. Ramsey was unable to leave Italy and a Covid situation at Juventus in time for that match but got permission to depart for this encounter and his presence will strengthen Ryan Giggs’ hand.
The goalscoring question
Premier League football has enjoyed a goal glut in recent weeks but it did not carry over to the international playoffs where the high stakes knockout games resulted in a spate of low scoring matches decided by penalties.
However, there will perhaps be a different energy to this encounter. This Nations League group has not thrown up very many goals to date, with a total of five in the opening four games in September. Wales eked out a pair of 1-0 victories, although they rode their luck away in Finland where they gave up chances.
Ireland defended better as a unit against Slovakia but while they missed more opportunities than their hosts, the high defensive line and positive approach led to a few issues on the counter. The Aviva Stadium is a big pitch, with open spaces that are there to exploit and while these early kickoff affairs can be slow to come to life when fans are present – never mind behind closed doors – the alternative prediction is that fatigue in the home ranks and a reasonably inexperienced Welsh rearguard can lead to stretched passages of play.
Kenny’s team were backed into favourites before kickoff against the Slovaks because the opponents lost two key players in the final 24 hours due to Covid confusion and the main market here is likely to be impacted by the release of the teamsheets. The recommended bet that will not be affected by the eleventh hour drama that has dogged this international break is for Both Teams To Score at around [2.12]
Yes, Ireland’s record of 10 goals from their last 17 competitive games is a worry but they were picking locks on Thursday with some degree of success and Conor Hourihane wasted a glorious chance to seal the win with five minutes left in the 90. Wales have goals in their ranks, and a range of speedy youthful options that will relish the counter attack potential presented by a more positive Irish approach.
Browne seeks to bounce back
Preston player Alan Browne was an unexpected central figure in Slovakia. He was brought in when McCarthy was lost to injury on the hour mark, and went on to miss two good chances before his spot kick in the shootout was saved. It’ll be a test of his character if Kenny provides a morale boosting opportunity.
What’s significant is that Browne got into goalscoring positions as a number ten supporting lone striker David McGoldrick. He’s more of an energetic number ten than a playmaker but the nature of the game suited him and he’s certainly put his hand up for inclusion. In that context, the 5/1 about Browne to score which is available on Sportsbook is worth a speculative play.