Friday 21 October 2016

The best possible outcome from today's Euro 2016 draw for the Republic of Ireland

Published 12/12/2015 | 12:30

Russian striker Alexander Kerzhakov picks the Republic of Ireland
Russian striker Alexander Kerzhakov picks the Republic of Ireland

The Republic of Ireland will be in the draw for the Euro 2016 finals today – but we may be to be in for a rough ride in France next summer. We look at the best possible outcomes from the draw

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Pot 1

Martin O’Neill didn’t disagree with Michael O’Neill’s view that drawing England might be bad news because the hype could end up overshadowing the importance of the other two games. However, the familiarity would remove any fear factor and you’d fancy Ireland to put it up to Roy Hodgson’s charges. Belgium top the FIFA rankings at the moment but, similar to Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal, they are not the most reliable and a date with those nations is preferable to the other three options.

Shane Long’s magic showed that Germany can be beaten but it would also give the world champions extra motivation for the re-match. France on home soil? Been there, done that, and could do without another turn. The same logic applies to a joust with Spain on the stage.

Preferred choice (in order)

1. England

2. Belgium

3. Portugal

4. Germany

5. France

6. Spain

Pot 2

Ukraine were the team Ireland wanted to avoid in the play-offs, mainly because of the intimidation factor of Kiev where they have a good record. In a neutral setting, they are more appealing than the other options here – they struggled away to Slovenia in the second leg. Russia are an unconvincing team while it’s hard to gauge the strength of Switzerland as the group where they finished behind England was so uncompetitive. Austria are now in the top 10 of the world and am emerging force, although this is unchartered territory. The reasons to avoid Croatia and Italy are obvious. Euro 2012 is still fresh in the memory.

Preferred choice (in order)

1. Ukraine

2. Russia

3. Switzerland

4. Austria

5. Croatia.

6. Italy

Pot 3

There isn’t a nightmare scenario in this pot, with Poland one of the better sides – and O’Neill’s troops already know what it takes to compete with Lewandowski and co. The Czechs are headed in the right direction again and topped that slightly chaotic group which concluded with Holland being eliminated. Hungary were viewed as the ideal play-off draw – to be fair their own fans agreed with that perception – but defied expectations by knocking out Norway. Still, they appeal as a potential opponent. Romania finished ahead of them in Northern Ireland’s group and were unbeaten in their qualification campaign but, on the flipside, they scored just 11 goals in 10 games and are short of star quality. Sweden have Zlatan Ibrahimović, but they wouldn’t be a disastrous outcome. Slovakia, meanwhile, lost their way a bit in a qualifying group with Spain where they stated like world beaters.

Preferred choice (in order)

1. Hungary

2. Romania

3. Sweden

4. Slovakia

5. Poland

6. Czech Republic

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