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Ireland set for trip to Slovakia as Euro 2020 playoff picture becomes clearer

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Ireland will play Slovakia in their first Euro 2020 playoff game. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Ireland will play Slovakia in their first Euro 2020 playoff game. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

Ireland will play Slovakia in their first Euro 2020 playoff game. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Ireland are set for a Euro 2020 play-off semi-final with Slovakia after Wales booked their place at the tournament on Tuesday night.

Mick McCarthy’s side have to win two games in March in order to take their place in next summer’s finals.

Their play-off ranking was determined by their results in League B of the UEFA Nations League last year, with McCarthy’s charges entering a mini-tournament with three other teams that missed out on automatic qualification.

UEFA will confirm the details on Wednesday, but according to the competition regulations laid out by the organisers, Ireland will face an away date against Slovakia in March before facing the winner of the other League B semi-final, where Bosnia host Northern Ireland.

Friday’s draw in Nyon will determine the situation with home advantage for the one-legged final.

It will confirm if McCarthy’s men will have to negotiate two away ties to reach their intended destination or travel to Slovakia knowing that a Dublin decider would be the prize.

Ryan Giggs’ Wales side were in control after Aaron Ramsey’s brace secured a victory over Hungary, which ensured that Slovakia’s success at home to Azerbaijan was irrelevant.

Slovakia and Ireland’s last competitive meeting was in qualification for Euro 2012, with both games finishing in draws. Pavel Hapal’s charges were inconsistent in a tight qualifying group, shipping seven goals across their two losses to Croatia but registering home and away wins against a Hungary side that was second going into the last round of fixtures.

Slovakia have played all of their group games this year in Trnava, which is 47km away from the capital Bratislava. McCarthy says that his team should enter the process without any fear as all of their opponents are in the same boat.

"All these teams in the play-offs, they probably haven’t won two games back to back either so we’re all in the same place, they’re probably doing the same things as us," said McCarthy, speaking before the identity of the opposition was confirmed.

Denmark boss Age Hareide gave a strong endorsement to their prospects after being impressed by Ireland’s display in Monday’s draw at the Aviva Stadium. He said they are a different animal to the side they faced when Martin O’Neill was at the helm.

"Definitely, there is more spirit in the side with almost the same players," said Hareide.

"The lack of spirit (last year), you could see it and there was no enthusiasm which is always there in Irish sides. Now, they are really enthusiastic and I think some of the players have also improved."

McCarthy was also unconcerned with the four and a half month gap to their next action.

"Everyone else puts negatives in my way. That’s what we have to do, get out and do it as the best you can and don’t whinge that it’s in March, don’t look for that at all," he said.

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