Friday 20 July 2018

Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland will learn opponents on Tuesday

Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland will on Tuesday discover their opponents for the European play-offs for the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia
Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland will on Tuesday discover their opponents for the European play-offs for the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia

Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland will on Tuesday discover who stands in their way of a place at the 2018 World Cup finals.

Both sides are unseeded for Tuesday's European play-off draw at FIFA headquarters in Zurich, so can draw Switzerland, Italy, Croatia or Denmark, who are seeded as a result of their world rankings.

The two-legged ties, which can be determined by away goals and penalties, are to be played between November 9 and 14, with Italy the opponents the Irish teams will be hoping to avoid.

The eight best second-placed finishers from the nine European qualifying groups advanced to the play-offs, with Slovakia missing out after finishing runners-up to England.

The four play-off winners will take the number of European teams at next summer's finals to 14.

Russia qualified automatically as hosts while France, Portugal, Germany, Serbia, Poland, England, Spain, Belgium and Iceland advanced after topping their groups.

The Republic beat Wales to a play-off place and will be hoping to continue their recent run of success in the lottery format.

Two of the Republic's three wins in eight play-offs have come in the last two attempts, but they have also experienced heartache in the format, including in the bid to qualify for the 2010 World Cup, when Thierry Henry's handball helped France to advance.

Martin O'Neill's men advanced to Euro 2016 at the expense of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the play-offs, but Northern Ireland are new to the format after qualifying automatically for the European Championship finals.

Press Association

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