The Republic of Ireland’s 2022 World Cup dream looks all but over as Stephen Kenny’s side travels to Baku on Saturday for a must-win meeting with Azerbaijan.
The Boys In Green sit nine points off the qualifying places in Group A and need more than just an Olympic Stadium win to prolong their hopes of featuring in Qatar next year.
How to Watch Azerbaijan vs. Republic of Ireland:
Game Date: Oct. 9, 2021
Game Time: 11:40 a.m. ET
TV: TUDNxtra 1
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That’s because regardless of the result in Baku, the Republic of Ireland will fail to qualify for a fifth consecutive World Cup finals if second-place Serbia manages a victory in Luxembourg later on Saturday.
It was always expected that the Serbs would be the main competition for a runner-up finish behind favorites Portugal, but that competition has proved too steep thus far.
The landscape would look far different had the Irish not given up two last-ditch goals to Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo in September:
That international break ended bittersweetly following 1-1 draws with Azerbaijan and Serbia, all but ruling Kenny’s side out from advancing.
The two teams set to collide in Baku also happen to be the only Group A teams yet to secure a win in qualifying, and it’s that lack of killer instinct that’s been their own undoing.
Kenny’s men have lost only one of their last six outings (including friendlies) but have also won just once in their past 17, with the manager all too aware of a problematic trend:
Azerbaijan’s sole point thus far in qualifying materialized in Dublin, and Milli Komanda will be all the more motivated to finish with a flourish considering it is already eliminated.
That was a positive outcome for Gianni De Biasi’s side in its maiden meeting with the Irish, meaning both teams are still searching for their first win in this particular head-to-head.
Norwich City striker Adam Idah is a doubt for the visitors alongside Derby County anchor Jason Knight after coming down with fevers, both of whom will have been targeting starts.
Emin Mahmudov came up with last month’s goal against the Boys In Green and should start in midfield for the hosts as he looks to make another incisive impact on home soil.