Ireland fourth seeds for World Cup draw

Aidan Fitzmaurice

THE ROAD to Russia will be very tough as Ireland will be among the fourth seeds for the draw for the 2018 World Cup qualifiers later this month, even though the side have have moved up eight places in the FIFA world rankings.

Despite playing out two draws, against England and Scotland, since the last rankings were announced, Martin O'Neill's side managed to climb up the table, to 52nd place in the world (32nd in Europe) and are now within sight of the top 50 in the world.

The draw for the World Cup qualifiers will be made in St Petersburg on July 25th and FIFA will use the rankings, announced today, to decide on the pots for the draw.

The big winners are Wales - who will be in pot one as they are now in the world's top 10 - and the Faroe Islands, expected to be in pot four with Ireland.

The Republic will be placed in that fourth pot along with Turkey, Slovenia, Israel, Norway, Bulgaria, Montenegro and the Faroes, making qualification extremely difficult.

A nightmare draw would see Ireland grouped with Germany, France, Sweden, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan.

Martin O'Neill will attend the draw in St Petersburg at the end of this month but whether he will be in charge of Ireland for the start of the next campaign, in September 2016, is in doubt and depends on the outcome of the Euro 2016 qualifiers.

The draw is made on Saturday, July 25 and the dates for the qualifiers will be confirmed the following day.

Argentina are now rated as No 1 in the world, ahead of Germany and Belgium. England are up to ninth, Wales have jumped 12 places up to 10th, Scotland are down one, to 29, and Michael O'Neill's Northern Ireland also move up the rankings to 37th.