Ireland's task of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup just got even more difficult

Fifa have confirmed in a statement that the rankings for the play-offs will be seeded.

Ireland's Jonathan Walters and Shane Long dejected after the Serbia game last night.
Ireland's Jonathan Walters and Shane Long dejected after the Serbia game last night.
Image: Tommy Grealy/INPHO

IRELAND ARE UNLIKELY to reach the World Cup qualifying play-offs after last night’s loss to Serbia, but if they do, their task just got slightly more difficult today.

Fifa have officially confirmed that the play-offs for the European section of World Cup qualification will be seeded.

That means that if Ireland win their final two group games and qualify for the play-offs as one of the eight best runners-up (Wales are currently the worst runners-up), they will almost certainly not be one of the four seeded teams.

Whether teams are seeded or not depends on their Fifa ranking, with Ireland currently 29th in the world.

As it stands, only two of the second-place teams are ranked lower than Ireland. The current runners-up and their respective Fifa rankings are as follows: Sweden (19th), Portugal (6th), Northern Ireland (23rd), Wales (18th), Montenegro (52nd), Slovakia (22nd), Italy (12th), Bosnia (30th) and Iceland (20th).

Should Martin O’Neill’s side seal an unlikely place in the play-offs, it means they could face a team of the calibre of Italy or Portugal, both of whom are likely to finish in second place in their respective groups.

Fifa also confirmed that the eight best runners-up would be determined by points, then goal difference, goals scored, goals scored away from home and disciplinary ranking, with results against the bottom-placed team discounted.

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Paul Fennessy

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