Ireland’s chances of making it to the 2018 World Cup have suffered a massive blow after the latest FIFA world rankings shows Martin O’Neill’s men in 52nd place and in pot four for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers draw.
Ireland are currently positioned in 32nd place in Europe which means they will face the ignominious situation of being in the lowly pot along with the likes of Faroe Islands and Israel.
The drop to pot four is the latest setback for O’Neill’s chances of retaining his position in charge. Last month’s lethargic home draw with Scotland put a massive dent in the hopes of the side reaching the European Championships in France next summer.
Qualifying for the next major tournament after France 2016 could also now prove difficult as another potential group of death awaits Ireland. In the worst case scenario they could be placed in a group along with world champions Germany, next summer’s hosts France and Poland who O’Neill’s men have faced in this campaign.
But Irish fans will view the draw in St.Petersburg on the 25th of July with the hope of avoiding a tough pool. Romania and Iceland are in pot one and two respectively and would represent a pleasing draw. France and Italy are also in the second pot though and it could spell disaster for O’Neill and company if one of them was paired with a big nation from pot one in Ireland’s group.
Being drawn in a group with Northern Ireland is also a possibility after Michael O’Neill’s men were placed in pot three above the Republic. The Northern Irish have risen from 44th to 37th in the rankings.
Elsewhere there was better news for Wales as they shot in to the top 10 of the FIFA rankings for the first time in their history after a 1-0 victory over Belgium in June. The Gareth Bale led Welsh can look forward to being in pot 1 and among the top seeds for the upcoming qualifiers draw.
It has been a dramatic rise in fortunes for the men from the valleys who were as low as 117th place in August 2011. They have now catapulted themselves about 2006 World Champions Italy and 2010 winners Spain in the rankings, along with Chile who defeated world number one ranked side Argentina in a penalty shootout to claim the Copa America last weekend.
Wales haven’t made it to a major tournament since the 1958 World Cup. But Chris Coleman’s team are on the threshold of qualifying for the Euro’s next summer as they are three points clear at the top of Euro qualifying Group B. Their incredible recent form includes four wins and two draws during the campaign which involved the defeat of world number three side Belgium in Cardiff last month.
England have also ensured their position in pot one as they moved up six places in the rankings to 9th in the world, one place above their British rivals. Scotland have moved down one place to 29th after their draw at the Aviva Stadium last month but have ensured they will be in pot three for the draw in Russia.