Wales, Republic of Ireland match up evenly for crucial World Cup qualifier

Rising above Gareth Mc Auley clears the ball for Northern Ireland against Norway on Sunday

Rising above Gareth Mc Auley clears the ball for Northern Ireland against Norway on Sunday

From the nine European qualifying groups, the eight second-placed teams with the best records will advance to November's two-legged play-offs.

Surprise semi-finalists at Euro 2016, Wales have not played at a World Cup Finals since 1958 and could finish a qualifying campaign unbeaten for the first time in their history.

In the first half, Wales was only able to create some opportunities that could bother Georgian goalkeeper, Giorgi Loria. In the selection for the national championship in Russian Federation, the national team of Moldova will definitely not fall. It was nearly four years since Wales had won a qualifier without the Real Madrid forward - but those statistics counted for nothing when it really mattered.

Stephen Ward sent the ball to the near post, where Alexandru Dedov could only help it on under pressure from Ciaran Clark and Shane Duffy and Murphy pounced to prod past keeper Ilie Cebanu with less than two minutes gone.

The entire squad trained at Abbotstown this afternoon, but manager Martin O'Neil says the Everton midfielder is lacking match fitness.

Tom Lawrence sealed a 1-0 crucial win for Gareth-Bale-less Wales who continued to punch above their weight in their quest to reach the World Cup finals in Russian Federation.

The injury will without doubt give Ireland some confidence heading into the clash, but Martin O'Neill has hinted that Seamus Coleman is just as big a miss. Robbie Brady, back from suspension, will likely come back in for the Norwich playmaker, despite Hoolahan providing the most quality in Friday's win over Moldova.

However there's also a strong case for Long to start.

The most damaging result of all came last night.

The other ponderable for the Irish boss, fresh from agreeing a new two-year deal, was the age gap: can players like Hoolahan (35) and Murphy (34) start in two games in the space of four days?

Wales have failed to score in five of their last six against Ireland, with Jason Koumas scoring their only two goals in this run back in November 2007. Coleman was forced to defend his players in a spiky press conference that strayed into odd territory at times and prompted the Wales manager to say at one stage: "Your boys weren't coming off with halos on their heads".

Coleman made clear that his job now is to make sure his team do not freeze when they take to the pitch on Monday night.

Calling on players from clubs at the lower end of the Premier League and from the Championship, both teams have something of a club mentality.

"But Gareth Bale is a world-class player and of course, he's a major threat". That is reflective of the collective spirit Coleman has developed.

It's a huge, huge game and while Wales are missing Gareth Bale, they have plenty of quality players who will be well up for it.

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