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Defence must keep door closed against Georgia if Ireland are to sneak into contention

07 Sep | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
Defence must keep door closed against Georgia if Ireland are to sneak into contention

With Keane tearing up record books, scoring goals is no problem for Ireland - it is keeping them out that will decide their Euro 2016 fate

England are there. Northern Ireland could qualify tonight. Wales will surely do so when international football returns in October.

Scotland have probably given themselves too much to do after defeat in Tblisi, but in doing so have unintentionally sent an open invitation for Ireland to join the Euro 2016 party.

And having spent virtually the entire campaign on the outside looking in, Martin O’Neill’s side must be thanking their lucky stars that they still have a chance of sneaking onto the guest list.

After all, they have only recorded one win from five Group D games not against Gibraltar so far.

Yet in only been beaten once they have refused to let their qualification rivals get too far ahead, and now find themselves in third place in Group D – two points behind Poland and four off Germany with fixtures against both still to come next month.

A win tonight at home against the same side that handed them a lifeline on Friday night and suddenly finishing in the top two would become a very realistic possibility.

They can certainly take great heart from their perfect record against Georgia, with six wins from six since playing them for the very first time back in 2003.

Georgia meanwhile have lost nine of their last 11 matches away from home, with their victories in the other two coming against Albania and the smallest of all the minnows in Gibraltar.

Robbie Keane netted twice against Gibraltar on Friday night to further add to his astonishing international tally – and the prolific striker is 5/1 to score first in an Ireland win.

Those two strikes took him up to fifth in the list of top international scorers in the history of European football.

Another brace on Monday would see him climb leapfrog Gerd Muller in fourth – with Keane also priced 5/1 to score two or more on Monday.

Yet Keane and company providing the clinical edge up front will count for nothing unless their goals are enough to secure all three points.

Ireland have scored in 16 of their last 18 home qualifiers, but have only managed to win six of those games.

In fact, their only clean sheets during their last ten competitive games at home have come against Gibraltar and the Faroe Islands.

Defensive frailty against half-decent opposition has long been their problem – and as Georgia proved against Scotland on Friday night, they are more than capable of springing a surprise.

Jaba Kankava has found the net in three of Georgia’s last five European qualifiers away from home, and is 10/1 to take advantage of Ireland’s leaky defence on Monday.

Given the stakes of keeping their qualification hopes alive, Ireland ought to have enough to bank three priceless points – but a bet at 7/2 on Ireland to win and both teams to score looks good value.

As it happens, four of Ireland’s six victories against Georgia to date have been by a 2-1 score line – including an away win at the very start of this campaign – and they are 17/2 to repeat the trick this time around.

Thus far Ireland’s qualification story has been one of dropped points and missed opportunities.

Should they grab their chance tonight then we could well be about to see a late plot twist.

Ireland v Georgia match betting