By Danny Wright
Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill has outrageously claimed that Everton defender Seamus Coleman is “world-class” and has likened his absence from the national team to that of Gareth Bale’s from Wales’.
Ireland and Wales will face each other on Monday as they look to secure at least a play-off spot in their World Cup qualifying group, but both will do so without key players in Coleman and Bale.
Coleman, 28, is out of action with a broken leg, which he suffered when his nation last played the Welsh earlier this year after he was hacked down by a viscous tackle from Neil Taylor.
Real Madrid attacker Bale, who is one of the global icons of football, is also out of the clash with injury, and O’Neill strangely thinks that his absence is comparable to Coleman’s.
“Wales would naturally miss a player of that calibre, but we’ve got a world-class player missing ourselves in Seamus Coleman,” said O’Neill, as quoted by Sky Sports.
“He’s been missing and in my mind, he’s as big a loss to us as Gareth Bale is to Wales.
“But Gareth Bale is a world-class player and of course, he’s a major threat.
“Him not playing I think helps, but Wales have been able to win matches without him, so I think their mindset is still pretty strong, but so is ours.”
Coleman is no doubt a talented right-back, but to put him in the world-class bracket among some of the best on the planet like Dani Alves, Dani Carvajal and Juanfran is somewhat of an overstatement by O’Neill.
Ireland have to beat Wales in Cardiff on Monday in order to give themselves a chance of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia next year.
They can potentially move top of the group and secure automatic qualification if Serbia suffer a shock loss to the hands of Georgia on the same.