Thursday 5 December 2019

'It's money well invested' - FAI president Donal Conway says application to host Euro 2020 games justified

Ireland drawn with Spain, Sweden and Poland if they qualify for finals next summer

Soccer Football - Euro 2020 Qualifier - Group D - Republic of Ireland v Denmark - Aviva Stadium, Dublin, Ireland - November 18, 2019 Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy shakes hands with David McGoldrick as Conor Hourihane applauds the fans after the match Action Images via Reuters/John Sibley
Soccer Football - Euro 2020 Qualifier - Group D - Republic of Ireland v Denmark - Aviva Stadium, Dublin, Ireland - November 18, 2019 Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy shakes hands with David McGoldrick as Conor Hourihane applauds the fans after the match Action Images via Reuters/John Sibley

Daniel McDonnell in Bucharest

FAI President Donal Conway believes that the draw for Euro 2020 has justified the decision to pitch for a role in the competition, even if it transpires that Ireland miss out on a place in the tournament.

Mick McCarthy’s team need to win two away playoff ties in March to earn the chance to take on Poland, Sweden and Spain in next summer’s finals.

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Spain will play all three games in Bilbao, so the winner of Ireland’s League B playoff will face a pair of Dublin matches against Poland (June 15) and Sweden (June 19) before travelling to take on the Spaniards in the final game on (June 24) – on the same night the Poles and the Swedes lock horns in Ballsbridge.

Conway feels that the large Polish population in Ireland and the reputation of the Swedish travelling support will ensure that the tournament makes its mark on the area regardless of whether the locals are involved.

However, a kinder draw compared to the alternatives will fuel the belief that progression to the knockout stage would be attainable if Ireland get there.

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FAI president Donal Conway. Photo: Sportsfile

McCarthy’s charges must win away to Slovakia in March before travelling to face the winners of Bosnia and Northern Ireland for a place in the tournament.

As co-hosts of the competition, the Irish delegation knew before proceedings kicked off in Bucharest that they would be in Group E along with Spain.

There were tougher options available than Poland and Sweden with prospective options France and Portugal sent into Group F along with Germany.

The highest profile match in the Irish capital is likely to be in the round of 16 with a meeting of England and either Germany, Portugal or France on the cards if Gareth Southgate's charges win their group.

England's group includes their World Cup conquerors Croatia, the Czech Republic and the League C playoff winners (Scotland, Israel, Serbia or Norway)

"I think that draw says that it's money well invested," said Conway.

"It does incentivise the whole thing. It regenerates and sets the whole thing off again, the journey to Euro 2020. I think the FAI will be very pleased with it.

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England manager Gareth Southgate and Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic on stage after being drawn in Group D REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

"If you look at it from a hosting city perspective, of course we would love to be there but (it’s positive) with the Polish population in the Republic of Ireland and the Swedes will travel to Dublin in very significant numbers.

"Football wise, I'd let Mick speak for Mick in due course. Spain would be very formidable, I think we could compete with Sweden and Poland.

"We would look at it commercially and it’s an opportunity to bring the second biggest tournament in the world to Dublin and show off football."

The presence of Poland in the group is good news for supporters with tickets who may not wish to attend if McCarthy’s side fail.

Large numbers of Irish fans have already secured tickets for the Dublin fixtures through the lottery system.

There is an official resale function available for those who opt to hand their tickets back.

Either way, the Polish presence for two matches will ensure there’s a lively atmosphere around the stadium and that will be a relief to organisers who feared low profile games and the embarrassing prospect of empty seats should Ireland fall short.

From that perspective, the next best alternative to qualification for McCarthy’s team would ironically be that Northern Ireland makes it through because of the numbers they would bring.

"That would be what I’m driving at," said Conway, admitting that Poland was a particularly good outcome.

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Polish fans in Dublin ahead of an Ireland v Poland soccer match in 2015. Links between the two nations date back to at least 1693, when a Kerryman became personal physician to the king of Poland. Photo: Caroline Quinn

"If it were Northern Ireland (playing at the Aviva) or of it were the Republic of Ireland, it’s a huge focus on football, a huge way in selling the game."

The Polish delegation couldn’t disguise their satisfaction with coming to Dublin and they are likely to source a base camp in Ireland.

Their manager Jerzy Brzeczek said: "We know exactly how it looks in Ireland. There is a big Polish community there.

"We remember the matches we played there in the past, when the stadium was full of Polish fans.

"We are aware that we can end up playing against two host nations if Ireland get through but we will try to be as well prepared as we can and we know that Polish people in Ireland will be very interested by this."

Below is a full list of the Euro 2020 finals fixtures next summer.

GROUP STAGES

Friday June 12

Group A - Turkey v Italy, 8pm, Rome

Saturday June 13

Group A - Wales v Switzerland, Baku

Group B - Denmark v Finland, Copenhagen

Group B - Belgium v Russia, St Petersburg

Sunday June 14

Group C - Holland v Ukraine, Amsterdam

Group C - Austria v Play-Off winner, Bucharest

Group D - England v Croatia, London

Monday June 15

Group D - Play-Off winner v Czech Republic, Glasgow

Group E - Spain v Sweden, Bilbao

Group E - Poland v Play-Off winner, Dublin

Tuesday June 16

Group F - Play-Off winner v Portugal, Budapest

Group F - France v Germany, Munich

Wednesday June 17

Group A - Turkey v Wales, Baku

Group A - Italy v Switzerland, Rome

Group B - Finland v Russia, St Petersburg

Thursday June 18

Group B - Denmark v Belgium, Copenhagen

Group C - Holland v Austria, Amsterdam

Group C - Ukraine v Play-Off winner, Bucharest

Friday June 19

Group D - Croatia v Czech Republic, Glasgow

Group D - England v Play-Off winner, London

Group E - Sweden v Play-Off winner, Dublin

Saturday June 20

Group E - Spain v Poland, Bilbao

Group F - Play-Off winner v France, Budapest

Group F - Portugal v Germany, Munich

Sunday June 21

Group A - Switzerland v Turkey, Baku

Group A - Italy v Wales, Rome

Monday June 22

Group B - Russia v Denmark, Copenhagen

Group B - Finland v Belgium, St Petersburg

Group C - Play-Off winner v Holland, Amsterdam

Group C - Ukraine v Austria, Bucharest

Tuesday June 23

Group D - Croatia v Play-Off winner, Glasgow

Group D - Czech Republic v England, London

Wednesday June 24

Group E - Play-Off winner v Spain, Bilbao

Group E - Sweden v Poland, Dublin

Group F - Portugal v France, Budapest

Group F - Germany v Play-Off winner, Munich

ROUND OF 16

Saturday June 27

Winner Group A v Runner-up Group C, London

Runner-up Group A v Runner-up Group B, Amsterdam

Sunday June 28

Winner Group B v Third Place Group A/D/E/F, Bilbao

Winner Group C v Third Place Group D/E/F, Munich

Monday June 29

Winner Group F v Third Place A/B/C, Bucharest

Runner-up Group D v Runner-up Group E, Copenhagen

Tuesday June 30

Winner Group E v Third Place A/B/C/D, Glasgow

Winner Group D v Runner-up Group F, Dublin

QUARTER-FINALS

Friday July 3

Winner Game 41 v Winner Game 42, 5pm, St Petersburg

Winner Game 39 v Winner Game 37, 8pm, Munich

Saturday July 4

Winner Game 40 v Winner Game 38, 5pm, Baku

Winner Game 43 v Winner Game 44, 8pm, Rome

SEMI-FINALS

Tuesday July 7

Winner Game 45 v Winner Game 46, 8pm, London

Wednesday July 8

Winner Game 48 v Winner Game 47, 8pm, London

FINAL

Sunday July 12

Winner Game 49 v Winner Game 50, 8pm, London.

*kick-off times not yet confirmed for all matches. Those that are have been listed, in BST.

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