The average points threshold for UEFA's automatic World Cup qualifiers?
Ireland have already managed 10 points from a possible 12 ahead of the Wales match18:21 Friday 24 March 2017, 18:21 24 Mar 2017
As Ireland prepare for the visit of Wales in a 2018 World Cup qualifier that could either see the Boys in Green's momentum stalled or take another significant step towards the promised land, Martin O'Neill's side already have an excellent 10 points from a possible 12.
Of course, there is still a very long way to go and one must note that the World Cup qualifying campaign is less forgiving then for Euro 2016 as fewer European teams can make it to the global showpiece.
Topping the group is important with second place going into the playoffs, unlike the Euros where third was enough for O'Neill's side to make it to a two-legged affair against Bosnia.
Prior to this round of action in Ireland's Group D, we top the group. But if we are to take the 2014 World Cup qualifiers into account, how many points on average would we need to keep ourselves top of the pile and qualify for the tournament automatically at the end of the campaign?
Every group differs of course with some tighter than others and certain pools seeing one team dominating and running away with it.
Like the UEFA qualifiers for 2014 (with the exception of Spain and France's group), the 2018 edition also features groups of six teams. Four years ago every team that ended up topping the six-country groups managed to earn at least 22 points (England, Italy and Russia were the ones with that minimum) while the rest picked up more points.
But from an Irish perspective, the fate of the second placed teams is of significant interest as it gives an idea of the average points we'd need to surmount.
The second placed team from 2014 in a six team group with the most points were Portugal and Ukraine (21 points apiece from a possible 30) who were narrowly pipped by respective table toppers Russia and England by a single point each.
But the average points earned by second placed teams across the eight six-country groups was 19.5 from a possible 30 which means that if Ireland can replicate the 10 points they have earned over the last four matches in the next six qualifiers, automatic qualification would almost certainly be in sight.
But if it's a tight group like Portugal and Ukraine experienced in 2014, then getting a minimum of 22 points would almost certainly put Ireland through, provided there are no anomalies.
Essentially that would be four more wins for Ireland over the next 10 fixtures.
Go n-eiri an t-adh libh!
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