Ireland's World Cup Hopes On The Brink After Defeat To Serbia

Ireland's World Cup Hopes On The Brink After Defeat To Serbiaā€¯

The 1-0 loss, courtesy of Aleksandar Kolarov's second-half strike, pushed Ireland down to third place in Group D, with Wales's 2-0 win in Moldova lifting them up to second.

Wales must now aim for victories against Georgia and Ireland in their final two games to maximise their chances of earning a play-off berth through a second-placed finish, although Serbia in top spot can still be caught should the group leaders slip up.

The qualifier between Ireland and Wales on October 9 in Cardiff looks increasingly likely to be decisive, with the victor claiming second place in Group D and a likely spot in the playoffs.

Northern Ireland players celebrate after Jonny Evans scored a goal against Czech Republic during the World Cup Group C qualifying soccer match between Northern Ireland and Czech Republic at Windsor Park, Belfast, Northern Ireland, Monday, Sept. 4, 2017.

He said: "I'm disappointed for the team, and I'll tell you who I'm really disappointed for - and he didn't even play tonight - that's the captain of the side, Seamus Coleman".

O'Neill said: "We are not beaten - far from it".

"It's not dead. We've got two games left". "I think if you haven't played well, you leave yourself open to criticism".

"That's part of the reason after my injury that the lads made it a bit more appealing to come back and if things hadn't have been going that well it may not have been the case".

"We'll just get on with the job and Ciaran (Clark), who knows him inside-out, hopefully, will be able to deal with that". "We can get to the play-offs, we can still make it". "After a performance like that tonight, I'm very confident that we can win both games".

"I'm immensely proud of the players". In the last three head to head records, the games between these two teams ended in a draw.

O'Neill's men have been on the receiving end of sharp criticism since struggling to a draw with Georgia on Saturday.

In many ways, it was unspectacular - both goals coming from set pieces, enjoying less than a quarter of possession during the encounter but conceding only one shot on target. However, the three day turnaround and concerns over the wellbeing of Wes Hoolahan and Aiden McGeady - two players that were in contention to come in and freshen up the side - raise doubts about Ireland's ability to thoroughly execute their plan. Such is the side's confidence and tactical discipline, they rarely concede opportunities, never mind goals - no side has conceded fewer goals or kept more clean sheets in World Cup qualification to date.

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