Play-off permutations no distraction for Gunter

Mon, Oct 09 2017

Chris Gunter speaking at the press conference on the eve of his game against Ireland Credit: Macdara Ferris

On the one hand, it is simple for Wales. Win and they guarantee themselves a play-off at a minimum or automatic qualification if that result is combined with a Serbian defeat.


However with a draw in their Group D clash in Cardiff with the Republic of Ireland, it isn’t as straightforward – they would have to look at results elsewhere to either top the group, requiring Serbia to lose at home to Georgia by two clear goals, with a playoff then dependent on the outcome of the Ukraine v Croatia game too.


For Welsh defender Chris Gunter, it wasn’t a case of concentrating on all these possibilities. The Reading player, speaking to the media ahead of the game, admitted that the players are simply concentrating on getting a win in Monday’s match.


“We haven’t been sat with pen and paper,” said Gunter about all the permutations on winning the group or making the play-off. “We are all aware of points others are on. As players it doesn’t matter to us as if we don’t take care of business tomorrow it doesn’t matter what happens elsewhere.


“We can’t affect anything else. We need to look after ourselves. I know what fans are like, my mates are the same, but we need to focus on ourselves and not get distracted by anyone else.”


The 28-year-old defender is delighted that his team have a shot at qualification going into the final game.


“Growing up as a Welsh fan I don’t remember us at the back end of a Euros or World Cup campaign going into the last game being second in the group and well in it.


“For the fans turning up tomorrow, there a chance of winning the group or being in the playoff, and to be in the mix at this stage it is exiting.


“Momentum is such a big thing in football. We have won the last three and kept three clean sheets. We have proven before when we are in this form we are a tough team to stop. We want to get to the World Cup. We want to be the squad that does it.”


Gunter was part of a Wales squad that lost 3-0 to Ireland previously. That was in the 2011 Nations Cup tournament in Dublin, that Ireland were victorious in. Gunter believes his team have come a long way since winning only one game in that four team tournament with Scotland and Northern Ireland.


“A lot has changed since then. As a nation we have grown in what we’ve done in the last couple of years. If you can bottle the feeling of what the nation had for the football team then and now, it would be night and day.


“It is now an event in Wales when the football teams plays. You will see a much different atmosphere about the place, as we have given the public something over the years. We have improved as a side and are a different team now.”


Wales went all the way to the semi-final of last year’s European Championship and that has brought a bit of added pressure but Gunter believes that his team can build on that recent success, even coming out of such a difficult qualification group.


“When you do what we did last summer, you raise expectations. We’ve got no divine right with running away with (qualification) groups. That is something that Wales have never done. It is a real tough group. We always said before a ball was kicked that it was going to be close going into the last game.


“We have real momentum. We are going in full of confidence from a very good run. We went away from home, won, and kept another clean sheet.


“Everybody knows what we are about as a team, as a squad and as a nation. Players know we can rely on one another. We have proven that over the years and we know we can rely on the fans as well. What they have given us over the years has been fantastic and we need one more really big effort. They will come and make it a good atmosphere


“We really need for fans to believe us, back us and give us one last push. With the atmosphere they create, it means it is a really tough place to come.” 


Read our match preview here and the thoughts of Martin O'Neill here and Chris Coleman here