Here's why every Ireland fan should be cheering for Scotland next month
How did it come to this?
Back in November 2016, Ireland had just defeated Austria to sit top of Group D.
The next four fixtures were Wales, Austria and Serbia at home with one away trip to Georgia. For the first time in a long, long time, we could picture ourselves topping a qualifying group.
10 months, four matches and three points on, we were left with this comment from Ireland boss Martin O'Neill:
"But before a ball was kicked if you'd said to me, that you'd seriously have to win the last two games, one at home and one away in Cardiff to make the playoffs, I would definitely have taken that."
Ireland's inability to perform when encumbered with the favourites' tag has sunk them back into must-win territory for that perennial goal - a playoff spot.
As Conan Doherty laid out, following Ireland's 1-0 defeat to Serbia, we are now hoping to finish second by beating Wales. Even if we do, we will be relying on other teams to do us a favour to make it as one of the top eight group runners-up. We are currently on 13 points but only 10 points will go towards qualifying for the playoffs [results against the bottom placed side do not count].
There will be a lot more Irish fans paying Group H attention as Bosnia and Greece are on low points totals despite being in playoff contention. However, Scotland and Group F could hold the key to World Cup qualification.
The Scots are currently fourth in Group F but wins against Lithuania and Malta have them back in the hunt for second place. They have 14 points so far but only eight will count towards the playoffs as two victories were against the Maltese.
Slovakia are visiting Hampden Park on October 5 and a Scotland win, coupled with an England victory over Slovenia at Wembley, would be ideal. That would leave the Scots on 17 points [11 playoff points] before they travel to Ljubljana for their final game.
Slovakia [potentially on 12 playoff points] have Malta at home in their final game so even though they could pip the Scots to second, they will not pick up any more playoff points. A Scottish defeat or draw in Slovenia would leave them on 11 or 12 playoff points then play right into Irish hands.
Back in 1987, Ireland qualified for Euro '88 because Scotland defeated Bulgaria and enabled us to finish top of Group 7.
30 years on and we may be cheering the Scots on from afar again.
While you're here, check out the latest episode of #SportsJOElive where we had Irish legends Shay Given and Clinton Morrison on the couch!
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