Group D is unique among UEFA's 2018 World Cup qualifying groups in that there really isn't a heavyweight team among the six countries competing there. Group A has the Netherlands and France; B has Portugal; C has Germany; F has England; G has Spain; and H has Belgium. But World Cup 2018 UEFA Qualifying Group D -which consists of Wales, Austria, Serbia, Republic of Ireland, Moldova, and Georgia-will almost certainly give the 2018 World Cup in Russia one of its bigger underdogs.

Group D Teams and World Cup History

That's because none of these national football teams have much of a pedigree on the global scale. Wales for instance, have been to the World Cup just once-back in 1958-though they did manage to reach the quarterfinals that year.

Austria probably have the most consistent history at the World Cup of any of the countries in Group D. The Austrian national soccer team had a lot of success at the tournament in the early days (they finished third in 1934 and fourth in 1954), but lost a lot of their luster as the FIFA soccer event continued to grow and evolve. Austria haven't qualified since 1998.

Serbia have technically played in 11 World Cups, but 10 of them only "kind of" count, because they happened when Serbia was a part of Yugoslavia or Serbia and Montenegro. As a singular, independent country, the Serbians have only reached the World Cup once, with a group stage run in 2010.

Republic of Ireland have qualified three times. Furthermore, they have actually advanced beyond the group stage in each of those appearances, exiting after the quarterfinals in 1990, and reaching the round of 16 in both 1998 and 2002. However, Republic of Ireland have failed to qualify for each of the last three Cups.

Moldova and Georgia, finally, have never qualified for FIFA's prestigious global football tournament.

Picking out the Frontrunners 

Considering the spotty World Cup history of the teams drawn into Group D, it's quite difficult to say which of these six football squads will rise to the top and earn qualification for the 2018 event. Since none of these countries had a presence at the 2014 World Cup, there's not much recent history to go off of here.

Looking at the latest FIFA world rankings, Wales should be the frontrunner here. While the country hasn't had a presence at the World Cup in over half a century, FIFA currently ranks them as the eighth best national soccer team on the planet.

This high ranking is exclusively due to Wales' impressive performance in the qualifying rounds for the 2016 European Championship. At the moment, Wales haven't lost a game in their qualifying campaign, and are leading Group B, three points ahead of Belgium. Ultimately, the Welsh football team are expected to qualify for Euro for the first time ever, so it stands to reason that now might be the time for the country to make a return to the Cup as well.

Austria also have a high FIFA ranking right now (14th), also thanks to good work in the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign. The Austrian national side is leading Euro qualifying Group G, having won five of their games and drawn the other. Austria are also looking at their first traditional qualification for the European Championship-though they did play in the 2008 event, qualifying by default as co-hosts.

Expect these two national soccer teams to be the big contenders from qualifying Group D. Republic of Ireland are ranked a good deal further back on FIFA's list (50th), and have been lukewarm in the qualifying competitions for Euro 2016. Georgia, Moldova, and Serbia, meanwhile, are at or near the bottom of their Euro qualifying groups, and will likely be also-rans for the 2018 World Cup qualification.

Root for your favorite Group D squad with an Austria shirt 2014 2015, or a set of brand new Wales football team merchandise from Soccer Box. You can also follow us on social media for more about UEFA's 2018 World Cup qualifying groups! We are active on several networks including Facebook, Tumblr, and LinkedIn.