Ireland

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UEFA WCQ: Ireland, Denmark all square ahead of decisive 2nd leg

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Ireland held firm in the face of Danish pressure and chances, ultimately securing precisely the result they were after — a 0-0 draw away to Denmark — in Saturday’s first of two legs with a place at the 2018 World Cup on the line.

[ MORE: Shaqiri promises “nice party” in Switzerland “when we qualify” ]

Every measurable statistical category drastically favored the home side — 72 to 28 in possession; 14 shots (5 on goal) to 8 shots (2 on goal); 81 percent to 53 percent passing; and on and on — but Martin O’Neill’s side managed to keep the clean sheet anyway, courtesy of Darren Randolph‘s five saves, and a semi-spectacular miss.

It was, by a mile, the game’s best scoring chance, and it came and went in the 32nd minute. Christian Eriksen fired a shot on target from nearly 30 yards out, and while Randolph made the save while falling to his right, the Middlesbrough goalkeeper couldn’t hold the ball and it fell to Denmark’s Pione Sisto eight yards from goal. The Celta Vigo winger took his chance with his first touch, on his preferred right foot, and fired inches wide of the far post.

Randolph made a key save in the 90th minute (above photo), denying Yussuf Poulsen’s goal-bound header from the top of the six-yard box. Jens Stryger Larsen got down the left wing, cut back inside onto his right foot and served up a tantalizing ball for Poulsen, but Randolph was quick to react, rising to tip the ball over the crossbar and complete his man-of-the-match performance.

The decisive second leg will be played on Tuesday (2:45 p.m. ET), at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.

UEFA Wrap: Rep. of Ireland beat Wales; Iceland qualifies for World Cup

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Call it luck of the Irish, or call it whatever you want.

The dream is still alive for the Republic of Ireland National Team.

The Boys in Green secured a place in the UEFA World Cup qualification playoff round with a 1-0 win on the road over Wales in Cardiff. James McClean‘s second-half strike inside the box was enough to keep Ireland alive while ending the campaign for Wales, which finished in third place.

It may not have affected the outcome, but Wales were without Gareth Bale due to a left calf injury. Following McClean’s goal in the 57th minute, Wales pressed and pressed, peppering the Ireland backline with chips and crosses into the box. But Ireland captain David Meyler led his side to keep a clean sheet as Ireland hung on to win.

Here’s a look at some other UEFA World Cup qualifying action.

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O’Neill upbeat as Ireland faces Wales in World Cup qualifier

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DUBLIN (AP) Ireland manager Martin O’Neill is upbeat over his team’s chances of beating Wales in their must-win soccer World Cup qualifier in Cardiff on Monday.

“It’s there for us, let’s go for it,” O’Neill told Irish broadcaster RTE after their 2-0 win over Moldova on Friday.

[ MORE: USMNT thrashes Panama in crucial World Cup qualifier ]

Two goals from Daryl Murphy gave Ireland victory, while Tom Lawrence‘s strike was enough for Wales to win 1-0 at Georgia and keep both sides in contention to reach Russia.

Top spot in Group D and automatic World Cup qualification is still up for grabs too after leaders Serbia slipped to a 3-2 defeat against Austria. Serbia can secure a spot in Russia with a home win over Georgia on Monday.

Wales is second, a point behind Serbia, with the Irish another point further back.

The group winner qualifies automatically for the finals in Russia. The best eight second-place finishers from the nine groups in Europe advance to the playoffs.

“It’s great. We know what we have to do, we have to win a game. We have to win a game in Cardiff and the chances are there for us,” O’Neill said.

Ireland hasn’t qualified for a World Cup since 2002. Wales’ last appearance was in 1958, when it reached the quarterfinals. Chris Coleman’s Welsh team reached the semifinals at Euro 2016, inspired by Gareth Bale.

[ MORE: Twitter reacted to Pulisic’s hot start on Friday night ]

Bale missed Friday’s win over Georgia and is also out of the showdown with Ireland after he picked up a calf injury playing for Real Madrid.

There is better news for Ireland, with James McClean and Robbie Brady available after they both served one-match suspensions. Team captain Seamus Coleman and striker Jon Walters miss out due to injury.

UEFA wrap: Spain clinches, Iceland grabs control

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There were certainly surprises in UEFA on Friday.

Serbia opened the door to Group D’s automatic spot, while Spain clinched the 11th berth in Russia thanks to another big win and a shocking draw between Italy and Macedonia.

[ MORE: U-17 World Cup Day 1 roundup ]

Wales and the Republic of Ireland found new leases on automatic qualifying life, while Group I remains quite murky.


GROUP D

Georgia 0-1 WalesRECAP

Tom Lawrence of Derby County stepped up with a goal in the absence of Gareth Bale, as Wales made sure to put pressure on Serbia with the first result of the day.

Austria 3-2 Serbia

Crystal Palace man Luka Milivojevic scored in the 11th minute to put Serbia on the precipice of Russia, but Guido Burgstaller knotted it up 14 minutes later.

It stayed 1-1 until Stoke City’s Marko Arnautovic scored only to find an answer for Serbia in the form of Manchester United’s Nemanja Matic.

Yet Louis Schaub scored just before stoppage time to provide an intriguing final day to qualifying.

Republic of Ireland 2-0 Moldova

Daryl Murphy scored twice in the first 19 minutes to set up a massive final match at Wales on Monday

Matches and scenarios:

Monday
Wales vs. Ireland
Serbia vs. Georgia
Moldova vs. Austria

The read: Serbia can still advance automatically by holding serve against Georgia, but a draw would open the door to Wales or Ireland and Georgia proved no pushover for Wales on Friday. The Welsh can ensure no worse than second at home by beating Ireland, while either winner would pass a losing Serbia.


GROUP G

Italy 1-1 Macedonia

Giorgio Chiellini darted into the heart of the six to pass home a goal which sealed Italy’s place in the playoffs, though it was Aleksandar Trajkovski’s 78th minute goal which assured the Italians would not catch Spain.

Spain 3-0 Albania

Rodrigo, Isco, and Thiago Alcantara all scored before the match was a half-hour old to stylishly insure a spot in Russia.

Liechtenstein 0-1 Israel

Eitan Tibi’s 21st minute goal was the lone marker.

Scenarios: Spain wins group. Italy will head to the playoffs. Imagine, as it stands, the possibility of Italy vs. Portugal over two legs for a World Cup berth.


GROUP I

Turkey 0-3 Iceland

Johann Gudmundsson (Burnley), Birkir Bjarnason (Aston Villa), and Kari Arnarson (Aberdeen) scored to banish Turkey from qualification and put Iceland in the driver’s seat for a trip to Russia.

Kosovo 0-2 Ukraine

It was a second half own goal that kept Ukraine’s World Cup hopes alive, and set up a critical final day between Ukraine and Croatia in Kiev.

Croatia 1-1 Finland

Mario Mandzukic broke through in the 57th minute, but Pyry Soiri scored in stoppage time to score a fine result for Croatia and put Iceland in the Group I driver’s seat.

Matches and scenarios:

Monday
Ukraine vs. Croatia
Iceland vs. Kosovo
Finland vs. Turkey

The read: Iceland is through to Russia with a win. There are other scenarios to send Iceland through, including with a loss (That would require a Ukraine-Croatia draw).

Croatia can advance to Russia with a win and an Iceland draw or loss, and would currently finish second if it draws Ukraine.

Ukraine can finish first if it beats Croatia and Iceland loses to Kosovo, or if Iceland draws and Ukraine beats Croatia by more than a goal. Other scenarios exist, but are more complicated.

Turkey is now out.

Rapids, Ireland forward Doyle retires due to concussions

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Colorado Rapids forward Kevin Doyle says he is retiring because of repeated concussions.

Doyle is from Ireland and has played 16 years in Europe and in Major League Soccer. He released a statement via social media Thursday.

“This year it has been clear to me that heading the ball was becoming problematic and causing me to have repeated headaches,” Doyle wrote (FULL STATEMENT HERE). “Two concussions this season and numerous other over the years have made this more concerning.”

Doyle said after consulting with doctors he decided to retire rather than risk permanent damage.

The 34-year-old has 16 goals and eight assists in 71 matches with the Rapids since joining the team in 2015. Before that he played 10 years in Europe, including stints with the Wolverhampton Wanderers, Queens Park Rangers and Crystal Palace.

He was also a regular with the Irish national team, making 63 appearances and scoring 14 goals.

“I’m privileged and proud to have fulfilled my childhood dream of playing for my country,” Doyle wrote. “Everything else was a bonus.”

Doyle’s latest concussion came on Sept. 2 against LA Galaxy and he hasn’t played since. He had five goals and four assists in 25 matches this season.

“Kevin is both a terrific player and a terrific person,” said Rapids Interim General Manager Padraig Smith said in a statement. “His contributions on the field have been invaluable, and off-the-field he has been a wonderful influence on the locker room as well as the community as a whole. His efforts will be sorely missed.”

Former MLS standout and current broadcaster Taylor Twellman, who was forced to retire from soccer because of concussions, posted a message to Doyle on Twitter.

The Rapids have struggled this season and were eliminated from playoff contention Wednesday night with a 2-0 loss at Dallas.