Randolph - Ireland still on a high

darren randolph
  • Darren Randolph's Republic of Ireland kick-off 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign
  • Boys in Green face Serbia in Belgrade in Group D opener on Monday 5 September
  • Ireland reached Round of 16 at UEFA Euro 2016 earlier this summer

Darren Randolph is aiming to help the Republic of Ireland kick-off their 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign with a win in Serbia on Monday.

The West Ham United goalkeeper has been central figure during a fantastic year for the Boys in Green, helping Ireland to qualify for and then reach the Round of 16 at UEFA Euro 2016.

Ireland will give their retiring all-time record goalscorer Robbie Keane – a former Hammers loanee himself – a send-off when Oman visit Dublin on Wednesday evening, before jetting out to Belgrade for a difficult-looking Group D qualifier.

The group also contains James Collins’ Euro 2016 semi-finalists Wales and Austria, who finished bottom of Group F in France, as well as potential banana skins in Georgia and Moldova. Only the group winners qualify automatically for Russia 2018, with the runners-up going into a two-legged play-off.

While the odds may not be in Ireland’s favour, Randolph says the men from the Emerald Isle can upset them again by reaching their first World Cup finals since 2002.

“You could look at it that in the way that we will be getting one of the tougher games in the group out of the way first,” said Randolph of the opening group fixture. “It’s a tough group and Serbia is a tough place to go, anyway.

“After how well we performed at Euro 2016, we’re obviously going to still be on a high. We had a very young team, so the experience should stand everyone in good stead and there were a lot of positives to take. Aside from the Belgium game, we played well against good sides with top world-class players.

“The coaching staff told us to look back and be proud of what we achieved. Nobody expected us to get a point or to get out of the group, which we did. We’ve got a lot of younger players who were playing in their first tournament, so it will stand us in good stead.”

After how well we performed at Euro 2016, we’re obviously going to still be on a high
Darren Randolph

darren randolph

While Ireland are feeling confident ahead of their opening qualifier, Wales too will go into the campaign in positive mood following their own outstanding Euro 2016 showing.

The Dragons beat Slovakia, Russia, Northern Ireland and Belgium to advance to the last four, where they were beaten by Portugal, and Randolph believes Chris Coleman’s men will be their biggest rivals for top spot.

“Wales are going to go into the group on a high after reaching the semi-finals of Euro 2016, Austria will probably feel they have something to prove and Serbia are always tough to play against, then it’s never easy against teams like Moldova and Georgia.”