Ireland’s World Cup summer is now within touching distance.

As Scotland failed to take all three points from their game against Slovenia on Sunday night, it sets up things nicely for Ireland as we face Wales in Cardiff tonight. A win against Chris Coleman’s men will guarantee us a play-off place. If Serbia lose at home to Georgia – unlikely but possible – then we go through automatically.

If Ireland fail to win, then Martin O’Neill’s men will not be going to Russia next summer.

The big talking point from the Wales camp is that they are missing their world-class superstar Gareth Bale. And he will be missed. But that’s not to underestimate the Welsh team who can cause Ireland serious problems. But I believe so can we to them.

“I think our approach will be quite similar to the one we had against Italy in Lille,” Martin O’Neill said in a press conference in Cardiff yesterday. “Where we knew before the game that a win was the only thing that mattered for us.”

While James McCarthy is ruled out for the crucial game, Ireland will be grateful to see the return of Robbie Brady and James McClean who are both back from suspension.

“Whatever game-plan we have, we are going to try to utilise it as best we possibly can,” the Ireland boss said. “At the end of 90 minutes, we have got to find ourselves in front. I think we are capable of doing that.”

The nerves are kicking in for this writer, that’s for sure.


Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)