Germany, England Qualify for 2018 World Cup

Former Wales striker John Hartson and ex-Republic winger Kevin Kilbane look at what will decide which team makes it, and who misses out.

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O’Dowda said that the Irish players were fully aware that they had to win after Wales’ earlier 1-0 victory in Georgia. They have a useful habit of rousing themselves for the big moments, but they tackled inferior opponents with discipline and… More of the same in Cardiff please.

Yet O’Neill goes into the games against Moldova and Wales amid criticism.

Far from the finished article, O’Dowda has a long way to go before solidifying a place in O’Neill’s starting line-up but is capable of making a name for himself in the coming years.

Lewandowski’s goals took his tally during the campaign to 15, one ahead of Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo for the most in Europe and the most ever by a European player in a World Cup qualifying cycle.

The pressure continued and it was no surprise when Ireland doubled their lead.

Nottingham Forest frontman Murphy, who had only one senior global goal to his name before kick-off, stabbed home from close range with less than two minutes gone and then doubled his tally with a fine header to give Ireland breathing space. Useful traits should Jonathan Walters’ injury woes continue and Murphy is called upon to deputise once again. Worldwide football was something I didn’t know whether you’d get used to or not, but obviously with qualification for the Euros made it all worthwhile – and we’re still in this competition also.

Before his new contract was announced he had set out his reasons for optimism.

It was enough to reward the Northern Irishman with an extension until after the World Cup in Russian Federation next year.

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The 65-year-old will send his side into Group D battle with Moldova in Dublin on Friday evening and then Wales in Cardiff three days later with their qualification hopes hanging in the balance.

The confidence that Daryl Murphy will bring to the Welsh game as well as a morale-boosting display should set up a great occasion in Cardiff, something the Irish manager is looking forward to.

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Play-off tablePosition/TeamPlayedGoal differencePointsWales are in ninth place in the play-off table – only the top eight second-placed teams qualify.

Daryl Murphy second left celebrates after netting his and the Republic of Ireland's opener