A McClean eye for goal

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Wheeling away in delight in the aftermath of his crucial goal against Wales in the Cardiff City Stadium, an argument could be made that James McClean needs this Ireland team more than the team needs him.

Of course, McClean’s energetic chastising of opponents and marauding left-wing runs have been paramount to Ireland’s success under Martin O’Neill. However, in this World Cup qualifying campaign, it has been McClean’s goals that have been most crucial in leaving Ireland two games away from Russia 2018.

McClean’s four goals in Group D directly led to Ireland gaining six points. His goals against Moldova, Austria, and that fateful goal against Wales were the difference between Ireland walking away with just one point or achieving victory.

James McClean
Opponent Goals Scored Final Score Points Gained
Moldova 2 3-1 Ireland 2
Austria 1 1-0 Ireland 2
Wales 1 1-0 Ireland 2

The six points earned by the West Brom winger for the Republic of Ireland was only bettered by Poland’s prolific goalscorer, Robert Lewandowski.

The Bayern Munich striker fired Poland to the World Cup with 16 goals in qualifying, becoming the top scorer in European qualification. Moreover, Lewandowski’s goals led directly to  Poland gaining 11 points, which allowed them to top their group, finishing ahead of Ireland’s playoff opponents, Denmark.

Robert Lewandowski
Opponent Goals Scored Final Score Points Gained
Kazakhstan 1 1-1 draw 1
Denmark 3 3-2 Poland 3
Armenia 1 2-1 Poland 2
Romania 2 3-0 Poland 0
Montenegro 1 2-1 Poland 2
Romania 3 3-1 Poland 3
Kazakhstan 1 3-0 Poland 0
Armenia 3 6-1 Poland 0
Montenegro 1 4-2 Poland 0

Speaking of Ireland’s playoff opponents, Denmark’s playmaking maestro Christian Eriksen had a scintillating campaign for De Rød-Hvide.

The Tottenham midfielder scored eight goals in qualifying, with his goals leading to his team gaining five points. The 20-point haul the Danes accumulated was good enough to ensure a playoff spot.

Ireland will have to be wary of the diminutive Dane as he looks to continue his terrific run of goalscoring form.

Christian Eriksen
Opponent Goals Scored Final Score Points Gained
Armenia 1 1-0 Denmark 2
Kazakhstan 2 4-1 Denmark 0
Kazakhstan 1 3-1 Denmark 0
Poland 1 4-0 Denmark 0
Armenia 1 4-1 Denmark 0
Montenegro 1 1-0 Denmark 2
Romania 1 1-1 draw 1

Plenty of other goalscorers led their teams to five points over the course of World Cup qualifying.

In Poland and Denmark’s Group E, Montenegro captain Steven Jovetic scored seven goals as The Brave Falcons finished in a respectable third place.

Both Italy’s Ciro Immobile and Serbia’s Aleksander Mitrovic both scored six goals, also leading to their teams gaining five points each.  

By Sean Meehan

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