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New manager faces gruelling Euros campaign

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Gareth Southgate

Gareth Southgate

Gareth Southgate

The new Irish football manager could be facing into a cruel draw of France, Germany, Ireland, Georgia, Macedonia and Latvia when the pairings for Euro 2020 qualifying are made in Dublin on Sunday week.

UEFA confirmed the composition of the pots for the draw yesterday and Ireland are a third seed for the competition, with just two teams to go through directly.

If the straightforward qualifying works out as it normally does next year, and given that 16 teams will qualify for a play-off, Ireland should, remarkably get a play-off in March 2020 to get the Boys in Green to the Finals, where they would have two games at the Aviva Stadium.

By 'works out as it normally does' we mean the big international countries such as Spain, England, France, Germany etc. going through directly, then a play-off place will fall to down to Ireland.

We are 23rd in line for a play-off, with Northern Ireland a place behind the now managerless Republic, but as long as the big boys win through over the qualifying action in 2019, a play-off should fall down to, perhaps, both Irish teams.

One quirk of the draw to watch for on Sunday week is, because the Euro 2020 Finals will have 12 host nations, no more than two host nations can be in any one group, to give all 12 the best possible chance of qualifying.

Seed

So, because France are not a host, Ireland can get France and Germany from the top two pots. But we cannot get Gareth Southgate's England and Germany or Spain and Germany. Similarly, we can get England, Spain or Italy as a top seed, but not then Germany, Russia or Denmark as a second seed.

The FAI must now make a snap decision. Do we try and get a manager in now, knowing that a draw as outlined in the first paragraph will put a lot of contenders off?

Or do they wait until after the draw, trust the fall of the balls will favour Ireland and then be hoping to offer the new appointee a slate of opposition of Switzerland, Austria, Lithuania and Gibraltar? Groups A to D in the draw will have the four teams who have qualified for the Nations League Finals. These groups will then have only five teams, so that the four sides can play off the Nations League Finals in June.

Groups E to J will have six teams in them, with each team playing two qualifiers in March, June, September, October and November 2019. The pots are as follows and teams with an asterisk are the ones guaranteed a play-off place for the Euros, no matter how badly they do in Euro 2020 qualifying.

The teams are laid out below in exact order of UEFA ranking and so what supporters of Ireland and Northern Ireland have to watch for is teams ranked below us, such as Scotland, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Greece etc., qualifying directly.

If that happens, it is bad news for both teams on this island. If they don't qualify directly, it means teams ranked above us are getting through and therefore the play-off places tumble into the laps both the Republic and the North.

Nations League Pot: Switzerland*, Portugal*, Holland*, England*

Pot One: Belgium, France, Spain, Italy, Croatia, Poland.

Pot Two: Germany, Iceland, Bosnia*, Ukraine*, Denmark* Sweden* Russia, Austria, Wales, Czech Republic

Pot Three: Slovenia, Turkey, Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland*, Norway*, Serbia*, Finland*, Bulgaria, Israel

Pot Four: Hungary, Romania, Greece, Albania, Montenegro, Cyprus, Estonia, Slovenia, Lithuania, Georgia*

Pot Five: Macedonia*, Kosovo*, Belarus*, Luxembourg, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Gibraltar, Faroe Islands

Pot Six: Latvia, Liechtenstein, Andorra, Malta, San Marino


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