There was a sombre mood in the Aviva Stadium last night after Ireland drew with Wales and captain Seamus Coleman was stretchered off the pitch with a broken leg. That said, when the time came to look at the group standings - and Ireland level on points with Serbia for first, separated only by goal difference - the Aviva FanStudio panel of Keith Andrews and Alan Cawley were massively upbeat about Ireland's chances of qualifying for the World Cup.
"If you double that tally, we're halfway there. It's going to be so, so tight, we anticipated that. In terms of offering us that at the start, though. you'd be lying if you said you wouldn't take that."
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Here's the qualifying table as it stands.
The key fixtures now for Ireland are the following:
- June 11 vs Austria (h)
- September 2 vs Georgia (a)
- September 5 vs Serbia (h)
- October 6 vs Wales (a)
If you presume we beat Moldova at home, two wins and two draws in the above fixtures means we'll double our point total in qualifying and finish on 22 points. Andrews believe 22 will be enough. Obviously, we'll be without Seamus Coleman for these massive games, but Ireland do have the advantage of playing Wales last. Wales could easily be out of qualifying should results go against them in Belgrade in June.
Alan Cawley also put a positive spin on the result and the likelihood of Ireland reaching the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
"The donkey work has been done before Christmas with the away games. I think Serbia at home is going to the big one," Cawley said. "Whether or not you like Martin O'Neill's style of football, he gets results."
Cawley also pointed out that Wales were at risk of being totally shut out of the group should they lose away to Serbia in Belgrade without their man-bunned talisman Gareth Bale.
Andrews also called for O'Neill to blood the squad's fringe players - the likes of Hourihane, O'Kane, Horgan, Boyle and O'Dowda - in the Ireland squad in Tuesday's friendly against Iceland.
"Look back a year ago, Shane Duffy really stamped his seal on international football and he made his name for the Euros," he told the Aviva FanStudio.