Wednesday 7 December 2016

Ireland unlikely to be seeded for play-offs: Here are our likely opponents

Published 11/10/2015 | 23:12

Shane Long, Republic of Ireland, receives medical assistance before being substituted. UEFA EURO 2016 Championship Qualifier, Group D, Poland v Republic of Ireland. Stadion Narodowy, Warsaw, Poland. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
Shane Long, Republic of Ireland, receives medical assistance before being substituted. UEFA EURO 2016 Championship Qualifier, Group D, Poland v Republic of Ireland. Stadion Narodowy, Warsaw, Poland. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

It wasn’t just the despair of the 2-1 defeat in Poland that handed a major blow to Ireland’s hopes of a place at Euro 2016 – as results across the continent in recent days have conspired against Martin O’Neill’s team as they look ahead to the play-off draw next Sunday.

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Ireland looked to be on course to be seeded in the play-offs heading into the final two rounds of matches, but a series of results have ensured that Ireland could now be ranked sixth among the eight teams who will battle it out for the final four qualifying places up for grabs.

That will mean Ireland will not be seeded when UEFA draw the pairings for the play-offs and while the official UEFA rankings will not be confirmed until the final two nights of matches are played.

As it stands right now, these are the teams who are set to be in the play-off mix (UEFA ranking in brackets):

Ukraine (9)

Croatia (13)

Bosnia (14)

Sweden (18)

Denmark (20)

Ireland (21)

Turkey (25)

Slovenia (28)

Among the results that have affected the rankings in recent days, Israel’s shock defeat at home to Cyprus on Saturday night and Bosnia’s success in beating Wales were outcomes that were a blow to Ireland’s hopes of a securing a seeding.

Sweden’s third place finish in Group I was another setback for Ireland, with Albania’s success in sealing automatic qualification ensuring a team that would have been ranked below us in the play-off draw were taken out of that equation.

Holland could yet be high profile play-off rivals for Ireland if they can beat the Czech Republic on Tuesday night and Turkey lose at home to Iceland, yet the Turks must be favouirtes to seal third spot in Group A after a troubled qualifying campaign to the Dutch.

Plenty of eyes will be on Spain’s trip to Ukraine on Monday night, with the defending European champions looking to deny their hosts automatic qualification that would ensure they are thrown into the play-off mix.

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If Ukraine were to slip up against Spain, Slovakia could be confirmed as the second team to secure automatic qualification in Group C.

There could yet be a final twist in Group H, with Norway heading to Italy on Tuesday needing a result to secure the second automatic qualifying berth in their pool, with Croatia keen to ensure they beat Malta to give themselves a chance of getting into second spot.

Norway are currently ranked below Ireland by UEFA’s ranking system, but not even a slip from the Scandinavians would appear to be enough to propel Ireland into a seeded berth.

Here is the state of play as it stands.

Qualified: France (hosts), Wales, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Northern Ireland, Portugal, Iceland, Czech Republic, England, Austria, Germany, Poland, Portugal and Armenia.

Best third-place: That berth is likely to go to Hungary but could be Ukraine or Croatia.

Play-offs: Ireland and Denmark are confirmed with Ukraine likely to join them.

Other groups are to finish out by tomorrow night but, as it stands, Turkey, Croatia, Sweden and Slovenia as well as Bosnia and Herzegovina will join them.

  • The draw for the play-offs will be held this Sunday at UEFA headquarters in Nyon at 10.15am Irish time.
  • The eight teams will be divided in two sections, depending on seeding, with the ties to go ahead next month.
  • First legs are to be played from 12-14 November and second legs on 15-17 November.
  • Seeded teams are not guaranteed to have home advantage in the second leg.

 

Following last night’s defeat, Ireland are highly likely to be unseeded in the draw. That could see them pitted against Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina or Sweden.

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