Sunday October 11, 2pm
Sky Sports Football, Sky Sports Main Event
How do Ireland pick themselves off the floor following Thursday night’s penalty heartache? The Boys in Green were as good they have ever been in a high-profile away game, but simply couldn’t convert one of the several openings they created.
Now, it will be very difficult to get up for a Nations League game against Wales that seemed meaningless even before Ireland’s trip to Slovakia. Stephen Kenny is likely to rotate heavily for this one, given that Ireland went through 120 gruelling minutes in Bratislava and that he still wants to experiment with his team ahead of next year’s World Cup qualifiers.
Ireland have not won since beating Gibraltar at home last June, drawing five and losing two in the last year and a half – and their record may not improve on Sunday. Wales, meanwhile, were easily brushed aside by an understrength English side at Wembley on Thursday and don’t look in great shape themselves.
They are missing both Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale though, but they are currently very much on Ireland’s level without those two top-pedigree players. These sides could easily cancel each other out at the Aviva Stadium this weekend.
This may be long odds-on, but it is a virtual certainty given the recent records of both nations. Ireland and Wales have enjoyed low-scoring starts to their Nations League campaigns, scoring just three goals between them.
Stephen Kenny’s men have scored just one goal from their two games, picking up a solitary point the process, while Wales have only managed two goals but have collected a maximum six points. The Welsh failed to score in Thursday’s comprehensive defeat to England, while Ireland also failed to score in their penalty shootout defeat to Slovakia.
In fact, Ireland have now failed to score in four of their last six games in a run stretching back to a 0-0 draw with Georgia last October. Ireland and Wales have also faced each other on four occasions since March 2017, with three of those four games witnessing one goal or less.
The other game – a 4-1 Wales win in Cardiff in September 2018 – was a complete outlier since Ireland were in a state of chaos during the Martin O’Neill regime. Their two recent meetings in Dublin have ended 0-0 and 0-1 and the chances are that Sunday’s game is going to follow suit.
Failing to score is something of a speciality for Ireland in the Nations League. The Boys in Green have drawn a blank in four of their six games in the competition since its inception in 2018, scoring a grand total of two goals.
They have failed to score a home goal in the tournament, registering just five shots on target in their games at the Aviva. If Thursday night was any indication, their goalscoring record is not going to improve anytime soon.
The Boys in Green spurned several gilt-edged chances in Bratislava and it was abundantly clear that they lack a clinical goalscorer. Wales, for their part, have not exactly been setting the world alight either, scoring deep into added time at home to Bulgaria and almost as late on away to Finland.
They weren’t exactly peppering the opposition goal with dozens of shots in those games either, it has to be said. Those hoping for a high-scoring shootout – if there really is anyone that optimistic out there – will likely be disappointed come 4pm on Sunday.
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