Expect a tight, low-scoring affair when ROI travel to Serbia

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Martin O’Neill believes the high-standard of opposition his Republic of Ireland side have faced in the last 12 months will have helped improve the players mentally.

After earning a play-off spot in their European Championships qualifying group, which contained Germany, they then surpassed Bosnia in that two-legged tie.

In France, Ireland reached the last 16 before exiting at the hands of the hosts and O’Neill is certain those experiences will put his squad in good stead as they begin their World Cup qualifying campaign.

“Listen at the end of the day, during that campaign we have taken four points off Germany, the world champions. We’ve had to fight against Bosnia to get through and we’ve had some big, big matches and over the 12 games we have come through that,” the manager said.

But if former Aston Villa and Celtic boss expects those experiences to guarantee him a win against Serbia in the Group D opener, he’d be mistaken.

The hosts have only lost one home World Cup qualifier in their last 10 outings, winning seven of the other nine in that span.

As a result we make Serbia the 1/1 favourites to win when Ireland arrive, with O’Neill’s side available at 10/3 and the draw a 23/10 chance.

However, it could be the 8/15 on the match containing under 2.5 goals that is the play to make considering Ireland haven’t scored in any of their last three World Cup qualifiers on the road.

In fact, Ireland have only scored more than one goal on one occasion in their last nine competitive outings, so a low-scoring encounter against stubborn opposition looks to be in store in Belgrade.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Matt Wiggins

No idyllic sound comes close to leather on willow for Matt, whose previous experience includes stints with Spin Magazine and Surrey County Cricket Club. It's not just cricket that interests him though, with football, golf, tennis and any American sport not played on ice all high on his list of favourites.