The Republic of Ireland edged their way into the World Cup play-off lottery after a priceless 1-0 victory in Cardiff which ended Wales’ hopes of making it to Russia.
Here Press Association Sport takes a look at what we learned from a game which left to two nations with conflicting emotions.
O’Neill knows what he’s doing
There was a degree of outrage from certain quarters in Ireland when manager Martin O’Neill did not name playmaker Wes Hoolahan, arguably the most creative player in his squad, in the starting line-up at the Cardiff City Stadium. But the vastly-experienced Republic boss knew it was not a night for 35-year-old legs from the start – and ultimately not at all – as his game-plan to frustrate Wales and then hit them on the counter proved decisive. O’Neill has had a happy knack during his time with Ireland of getting a result when he needs one, and that will not be lost on the Republic’s potential play-off opponents.
Shane Duffy has had an interesting career to date. As a teenager, he suffered a life-threatening injury while training with Ireland and underwent emergency surgery to repair his lacerated liver. Later released by Everton, he revived his career on loan with Yeovil before easing his way back into the Premier League with Brighton via Blackburn. On Monday evening, he was a colossus as Wales rained high balls into the penalty area at a ground where he once scored two own goals and was sent off in the same match playing for Rovers against Cardiff, justifying his recent emergence on to the international stage.
Coleman talks crucial
Chris Coleman was adamant after Euro 2016 that the 2018 World Cup campaign would be his last in charge of Wales. But Coleman’s stance appears to have softened over the last 12 months and there is a feeling that he could be persuaded to stay on for Euro 2020. Working with the talented youngsters breaking through is known to appeal to Coleman and Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey and Joe Allen will arguably be at their peak in the next campaign. There is also the possibility of Wales being a host nation at Euro 2020 and players and fans alike would certainly welcome him staying on. Talks are planned before a November friendly.
Young guns offer hope
The exciting emergence of a crop of youngsters gives Wales the belief that their success at Euro 2016 was not a one-off. Liverpool teenager Ben Woodburn is the most obvious example of that after featuring in the final four World Cup qualifiers from the bench. Tom Lawrence also left his mark on the World Cup campaign and 17-year-old defender Ethan Ampadu has already made his first-team debut at Chelsea. There are more showing promise at Under-21 level and Wales feel the pathway is in place to provide others the step up to senior level. With few players the wrong side of 30 – skipper Ashley Williams and Joe Ledley being obvious exceptions – Wales should enter Euro 2020 in good shape despite World Cup disappointment.
International football does matter
At a time when fans are voting with their feet over meaningless friendlies and dead-rubber qualifiers, Wales’ showdown with their neighbours across the Irish Sea provided a welcome reminder of what international football is all about. From the moment the home supporters embarked upon a spine-tingling and largely unaccompanied rendition of their national anthem to the delirious celebrations of their travelling counterparts on the final whistle, what transpired was a tooth-and-nail battle in which no quarter was asked nor given. Welsh despair and Irish delight were in stark contrast as proceedings ended, a measure of what the outcome meant to those who took part in and witnessed it.
Source: By PA Sport Staff