Martin O’Neill’s Ireland may be bottom seeds for next summer’s 2016 European Championships, with a bit of luck could find themselves in a manageable group in France.
Assistant manager Roy Keane was bullish following the play-off victory over Bosnia last night that the Boys in Green will not be heading to next summer’s tournament simply to “make up the numbers”, while goal scoring hero Jon Walters admitted the squad are looking to atone for the 2012 disaster in Poland and Ukraine.
With the draw to take place next month – and two play-offs yet to be decided – here is a look at the best and worst case scenario facing Ireland.
Ideal Draw (England, Croatia, Sweden, IRELAND)
The Ireland management team would be delighted with this particular group, though there would be no public statements admitting as much.
France are by some distance the lowest ranked of the top seeds, but nobody will want the hosts with a vocal support in their group. Roy Hodgson’s England are the most attractive opponents in pot one and while they boast one or two individuals of note, will not strike fear into the heart of many teams next summer.
Croatia narrowly edged out Norway to qualify automatically for Euro 2016 and scraped through after winning only two of their final five games. The Croats easily brushed aside Ireland in Poland four years ago, but are not as formidable a side under Ante Cacic.
Sweden of course are yet to confirm their place at Euro 2016, but hold a 2-1 advantage over Denmark ahead of their return leg. Should they succeed, they will be among the teams in pot three.
Under Giovanni Trapattoni Ireland suffered a 2-1 home defeat during the 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign, though were unfortunate not to claim all three points in the goalless away fixture.
All Swedish hopes will rest on Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but the quality within the rest of the squad would have Ireland confident of a positive result.
We need little reminding on these shores of the ability of the reigning European champions. They may have relinquished their World crown to Germany, but for all the talk of bing a "fading force", they would provide an incredibly stern test of our credentials.
The Italians, another reminder of our 2012 nightmare, lurk among the second seeds. They qualified from Group H unbeaten, finishing four points ahead of Croatia and conceded just seven goals along the way.
The Azzurri have lost just once under manager Antonio Conte.
Ranked 17th in the world, the Czech Republic topped what was a competitive Group A, where the Netherland finished a lowly fourth and missed out on even a play-off position.
A 2-0 home reversal at the hands of Turkey was the only real blot on the copybook with four opening wins paving their way for automatic qualification.
With the exception of veterans Petr Cech and Tomas Rosicky, and highly rated wing-back Pavel Kaderabek, who joined Bundesliga club Hoffenheim last season, the bulk of the squad play in the domestic Czech league and could spring a few surprises in France.
Euro 2016 seedings ahead of the final two play-off games tonight and subject to change depending on results
POT 1 – Germany, Spain, England, Portugal, Belgium, France
POT 2 – Italy, Russia, Switzerland, Austria, Croatia, Ukraine*
POT 3 – Czech Republic, Sweden*, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Hungary
POT 4 – Turkey, Republic of Ireland, Iceland, Wales, Albania, Northern Ireland
* Ukraine and Sweden are yet to confirm their qualification and have their play-off second legs on Tuesday night.