One of the most exciting qualifying campaigns is set for a grand finale when Poland and Republic of Ireland square off in Warsaw to decide who books a Euro 2016 qualification and who takes part in the play-offs. Either of the two sides would qualify with a win, whereas the hosts go through in case of 0-0 and 1-1 draws and Ireland progresses in case of any other stalemate.
Poland were pretty disappointing in the 2014 World Cup qualifiers, finishing fourth behind England, Ukraine and Montenegro, but they have shown a great deal of improvement in the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign. Bayern Munich striker Roberto Lewandowski obviously had a big role to play in helping the national team come this far, bagging 12 goals in 9 matches, but the likes of Arkadiusz Milik, Kamil Grosicki, Grzegorz Krychowiak and Lukasz Fabianski impressed as well. It is now clear that coach Adam Nawalka has created a homogeneous unit that is especially dangerous on the counter-attack, which is something that Scotland players know all too well after the Thursday’s 2-2 draw. It was Robert Lewandowski’s injury-time goal that ensured that Poland remained in front of Republic of Ireland ahead of the decisive Euro 2016 qualifier and this is something that should take some of the pressure off the hosts considering that it is their opponents who need to attack in search of a win or high-scoring draw. Following what was a commanding performance at Hampden Park, coach Adam Nawalka could field an unchanged starting line-up, that is if important attacker Arkadiusz Milik recovers in time from a rib injury sustained in Glasgow.
Ahead of the September qualifiers, Republic of Ireland sat in fourth place, two and four points off the play-off spot and automatic berths respectively, and things definitely did not look too promising ahead of the final four rounds of fixtures. But, while their rivals for the top three positions dropped quite a few points, the Irish recorded back to back wins over Gibraltar and Georgia to revive their qualifying hopes. With games against Germany and Poland next, there were still quite a few doubters among the pundits and fans, but Martin O’Neill’s side then went on and defeated 2014 World Cup winners Germany to make another important step towards the tournament finals. But, even though the Irish now need a win or high-scoring draw to go through, we cannot really expect them to attack very good Poland side from the off, especially knowing how dangerous they can be on the counter. Chances are that Republic of Ireland will instead stick to their cautious approach and attempt to record third successive 1-0 triumph. And while Darren Randolph will continue to deputize for Shay Given, Martin O’Neill has received a huge boost considering that Glenn Whelan, James McClean, Seamus Coleman and Marc Wilson are all back in contention.
With so much at stake at the Stadion Narodowy in Warsaw, chances are that both teams will be more afraid of making costly mistakes then going for a win, so we definitely expect to see a tight game, with chances few and far between.
Verdict: Both teams to score – No
Best Odds: 8/11