Serbia in, Ireland oust Wales

October 10, 2017
Republic of Ireland's James McClean celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game during the World Cup 2018 Group D qualifying match between Wales and the Republic of Ireland at the Cardiff City Stadium, Cardiff, Wales, Monday


Serbia qualified for the World Cup for the second time since becoming an independent nation in 2006 after beating Georgia 1-0 yesterday, while Ireland won in Wales 1-0 to seal second place and a spot in the play-offs.

At the end of a tense final round of qualifying in Group D, Gareth Bale's Wales dropped to third place and were out of contention for a place in next year's tournament in Russia 15 months after reaching the semi-finals of the European Championship.

Fireworks filled the sky after full time in Belgrade as Aleksandar Prijovic's 74th-minute goal ensured Serbia topped the group by two points and was back in soccer's biggest stage for the first time since 2010.

The Serbs took their second chance to secure qualification, after losing in Austria last Friday.

With Serbia winning, the Celtic showdown between Wales and Ireland in Cardiff was for the prize of a play-off berth in November.

Ireland took it, thanks to James McClean's 57th-minute goal following a defensive mix-up by the Welsh. Jeff Hendrick robbed Ashley Williams, who failed to clear after receiving an under-arm pass from his goalkeeper, before racing down the touchline and crossing for McClean to shoot first time into the net.

Defending deeply, and in numbers, and scoring on a counter-attack, it was a classic away performance from Ireland against a Wales team that hadn't lost in Cardiff in four years.

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