Ronald Zak

Here's why Serbia's loss to Austria tonight has added more intrigue to Monday's battle in Cardiff

The Republic of Ireland can still qualify automatically after what happened in Vienna tonight.

WITH THE FOCUS very much on Friday’s Group D games that involved the Republic of Ireland and Wales, one fixture seemed to slip between the cracks.

But, what happened in Vienna tonight has added even more layers to Monday’s massive clash between the Irish and Welsh in Cardiff.

Group leaders Serbia could have booked their place in Russia next summer with a win over Austria but, instead, they suffered a 3-2 loss – their first defeat of the campaign.

Elsewhere, their closest rivals both racked up victories so the group now looks like this.

Screen Shot 2017-10-06 at 17.41.46

With one round of games left, two points separate the top three sides.

So, here’s the deal.

Serbia face Georgia in their final match in Belgrade. If they lose and the Republic of Ireland beat Wales, the Irish will top the group and qualify automatically for next summer’s World Cup.

If Serbia draw with Georgia and the Republic win, the teams will move level on points but the Serbs will still have the advantage in the tie-breaker based on their superior goal difference.

A big victory for Ireland at the Aviva tonight would have given them a realistic chance to over-take Serbia in the event of a tie but now there’s not enough ground to make up and would require a cricket score win over Wales to happen.

But, in terms of Monday’s battle, Wales are motivated by the same possibility as Ireland and are in better shape should Serbia drop points.

Should Wales beat the Irish, a loss or a draw for Serbia will mean Chris Coleman’s men will top Group D and book their place at Russia 2018.

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