It is simply a case of do-or-die for the Boys in Green when it comes to Monday’s World Cup qualifier against Wales in Cardiff.
A win for Ireland would see them guarantee a play-off and keep alive their quest to become the first Irish team to reach the World Cup finals since 2002.
While Martin O’Neill’s men won’t be reading too much into statistics – they have surely noted that their chances of victory are much more likely due to the absence of Wales’ talisman Gareth Bale through injury.
The Real Madrid star picked up a knock prior to the international break, ruling him out of their crunch encounters with Georgia and the Irish. While Wales still possess plenty of talent in their ranks, their record without Bale makes for excellent reading for the Irish cause.
Friday’s 1-0 win over Georgia kept Wales’ hopes of reaching only their third major tournament well and truly alive but, according to WalesOnline, it was the first time they won without Bale involved since a 1-0 win at home to Macedonia in October 2013.
In fact, the Welsh have won just just three qualifiers in the last ten years without Bale involved.
In the Chris Coleman era, Bale has played 35 of 47 games in which their win percentage was 48.6 per cent. Of the twelve games that Bale has missed they have won just two, meaning the percentage drops to a measly 16.7 per cent.
While assistant manager Roy Keane acknowledged earlier in the week that Ireland will be without a world-class player of our own in Seamus Coleman, this statistic certainly makes for interesting reading when it comes to the Boys in Green’s chances of keeping their hopes alive.
Ireland’s record against Wales in recent years also looks relatively positive. They are unbeaten in their last seven encounters against the Welsh, winning three and drawing four.
While there is no denying that Wales are a talented unit given their surge to the European Championship semi-finals in 2016, their record without Bale will restore hope in the Irish camp that O’Neill’s side can channel the spirit of Lille and create another victory that will go down in the annals of Irish footballing history.
We can hardly wait to see.
Jordan Norris, Pundit Arena