Last Thursday, the Republic of Ireland finally found out who they will be playing in their World Cup qualifying playoff when Scotland beat Austria 1-0 in Hampden Park. The Girls in Green face Scotland on Tuesday, October 11th with kick-off at 8pm after weeks of uncertainty.
And the uncertainty is still not over when it comes to this World Cup. The qualifying process remains complicated.
Let me try break it down!
If we beat Scotland Tuesday, are we in the World Cup?
The Republic of Ireland are in 1 of 3 European playoff finals.
- Republic of Ireland v Scotland
- Portugal v Iceland
- Wales v Switzerland
Only 2 winners of these play-offs are guaranteed qualification.
The winners of these games will be ranked according to their results in the group stages and in their playoff final.
The top 2 will qualify directly for the finals.
Currently the top 3 in table are:
- Switzerland 19 points
- Iceland 18 points
- Ireland 17 points
This means, for Ireland to qualify directly, they need to win their playoff and have either of the top teams (Switzerland or Iceland) lose/draw.
The points system awards 3 points for a win after 90 minutes (or 120 minutes if it goes to extra time) and 1 point for a win on penalties.
So, if Iceland and Switzerland win their playoffs on penalties, they would be awarded 1 point as the result is classified as a draw. If Ireland win theirs, even after extra time, they will pick up 3 points. This will put Ireland within the top 2 in the table and they will directly qualify.
If the top 3 teams are equal on points then it goes to goal difference. Currently, Ireland are level with Iceland on this. After this, it goes to goals scored (Ireland are leading here), then to away goals scored and so on.
A key point to note also is that the Republic of Ireland squad will know the outcome of the other two play-offs at half-time. This may prove to be crucial for the squad in how they prepare for the second half.
Even if Ireland beat Scotland, but finish below Iceland and Switzerland in the table, are we out? No World Cup?
No, then the team head for more playoffs. In February, New Zealand (who are co-hosting the World Cup with Australia) will host the inter-confederation play-off tournament. This tournament will see 3 teams qualify for the World Cup. If Ireland go this route, their prospects of qualifying for the tournament are still high. The Republic of Ireland are currently ranked #26 in the world and the other nations competing range from #38-#84. A win here means guaranteed qualification for the 2023 World Cup.
Ok, so ultimately what is the best case scenario on Tuesday!?
For the Republic of Ireland to qualify directly, we need to beat Scotland (not in penalties) and hope that either Iceland or Switzerland trip up - then, we are World Cup bound!
Where can I watch it?
Come support the Girls in Green! We are hosting a watch party Tuesday in The Bar, Stephens Green at 7.30pm.
Not around? Then RTÉ2 will be broadcasting the game from 7.45pm. Tune in for this historic event and give the girls the support they deserve.