Second place no guarantee of play-offs

Even if Ireland finish second in Group C, Giovanni Trapattoni’s team will not be guaranteed a place in the play-offs for the 2014 World Cup finals.

That’s because the runner-up with the fewest points across the nine groups will be cut from the draw for the four two-legged ties in November.

The same rule applied four years ago, when Norway missed out. On that occasion Ireland occupied the eighth and last place in the table of second-placed teams.

Because Group I, in which Spain currently lead France, contains only five teams, runners-up in Groups A-H must discount their results against the bottom team in their section (at present the Faroe Islands in Group C) to ensure a level playing pitch.

All teams will be judged, therefore, on eight matches against their four closest group opponents.

As it stands, the second-placed team in Group C — Austria — is ranked eighth in the runners-up table, ahead of Israel (Group F) on goal difference.

But the picture will change constantly as the programme of qualifying matches progresses.

Just how fine the margins are is revealed by the fact that, if Ireland had hung on for victory against Austria, they would now be ranked sixth in the second-place mini-league.

What is certain is that Ireland have three points fewer in their section than at the same stage four years ago — and are two places lower.

Then, victories over Georgia (twice) and Cyprus (in Dublin) and draws with Montenegro and Bulgaria gave Ireland 11 points from five matches for second place behind Italy.

Now, with eight points at the halfway stage of the campaign, Trap’s team stand fourth, behind Austria and Sweden on goal difference. The Swedes also have a game in hand.

Meanwhile, Jon Walters’ double on Wednesday night made him the first Ireland player other than Robbie Keane to score twice in a competitive match since Roy Keane hit two against Cyprus 12 years ago.


Italy is a volatile place as you probably know, not just the passions of its people but is a place of active volcanos and frequent earthquakes. One of the most devastating earthquakes in recent years was the one that struck the Amatrice region in 2016.Wine with Leslie Williams: Some tasty Italian selections

It’s confirmed, being a dog owner is good for you. Esther McCarthy spoke to four celebrities about pride in their pooches.Animal magnetism: Celebrities and their treasured pets

We recently began watching a new sitcom called, ‘The Kids Are Alright’. It follows an American family in the early seventies as they raise eight sons.Lindsay Woods: I’m a dormant individual by nature but my children are adrenaline junkies

Rosscarbery antiques fair offers plenty of variety, writes Des O’Sullivan.See the value of rare notes and diamonds

More From The Irish Examiner