Last updated & checked: 10/08/2021
The Republic of Ireland, fresh from a helpful draw in Denmark on Friday night, can put themselves in prime position in Group D this evening with a straightforward victory over Gibraltar. Tonight will be the 23rd game the visitors have played in a major qualifying competition, and with 22 defeats in their first 22 outings they’re very much expected to make up the numbers in Dublin this evening. Mick McCarthy’s Ireland side have looked better with each game they’ve played, and with tonight’s game the last one before the summer off-season they’ll want to sign off in style.
Gibraltar were also in action as the weekend got underway, travelling to Georgia and losing by a 3-0 margin that left them bottom of the table with two defeats from two games, no goals scored and four conceded. After a Nations League campaign in which they managed wins over Liechtenstein and (miraculously) in Armenia, normal service has been resumed for Julio Cesar Ribas’ side, and they’re likely to enter this game with their key priority being to keep the score down.
Republic of Ireland vs Gibraltar Prediction: Republic of Ireland 3-0 Gibraltar
In 22 prior games at this level, Gibraltar have conceded 107 goals. That’s an average of nearly five goals a game, and the 56 that they conceded in the Euro 2016 qualification competition broke a competition record for most goals against. That said, the minnows are showing signs of gelling into a team – although they opened their campaign with a loss at home to the Irish, they limited the score to 1-0 and could have scored themselves. Tonight they will again set out to frustrate the Boys in Green – and with a very limited attack, McCarthy’s charges might not find this match to be a cakewalk. Ireland should, however, still pick up three points and augment their goal difference into the bargain.
Our recommended tip: Ireland score a penalty
With a squad made up primarily of players from the very part-time Gibraltar Premier League, the visitors know they can’t expect to go toe to toe and win here. What they can do is make it hard for Ireland to get past them, and recent games have shown the minnows to be skilled at packing the heart of their defence. Aided by gale-force winds, it kept McCarthy’s men from scoring more than one in the previous meeting. However, on Irish soil and against an Irish side that seems to be finding its feet, they’re likely to find it tougher here – and defending for 90 minutes often leads to mistakes. Ireland are 39/20 to score a penalty with NetBet, and there’s a very real chance of that happening at some point.
Out of Gibraltar’s 22 previous matches at the highest level, three have been against Ireland, which gives this match a feeling of familiarity. As you may have guessed, all three meetings have been won by Ireland. The first, back in 2014, was here at the Aviva and ended in a 7-0 win including a hat-trick within the first 18 minutes for Robbie Keane. During the same qualification campaign, Ireland won the other meeting 4-0. Added to the 1-0 win in the opening game of this group stage, it means Ireland have scored twelve goals for no reply against Gibraltar.
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Players to watch: Callum Robinson & Lee Casciaro
Ireland fans look back on the era when their attack contained the likes of Robbie Keane, Niall Quinn and Damien Duff with something resembling awed nostalgia; their current crop of strikers have not a single goal between them in the green shirt. However, Robinson is a good bet to break that unwelcome duck this evening. With eight goals in 18 outings this season for Preston North End, he’s a mobile striker with a decent touch – and the feeling is that if he can get off the mark at this level, he could become a solid asset to his country.
At the age of 37, Casciaro is at the opposite end of his international football career from Robinson, but he has scored two of the most famous goals in Gibraltar football history. In 2015, he notched his country’s first goal in competitive action, temporarily levelling a Euro 2016 qualifier against Scotland at 1-1. His side eventually lost 6-1. Casciaro was also on the spot in July 2016, when he notched for Lincoln Red Imps against Celtic, ending Brendan Rodgers’ bow as Hoops manager with an incredible 1-0 win for the underdogs. What price another goal this evening?