The Republic of Ireland have been paired with Bosnia-Herzegovina in the play-offs for the European Championships. With England, Wales and Northern Ireland already safely qualified, Martin O’Neill’s men look to have a tricky challenge ahead if they are to join them in France next summer. At least they have the slight advantage of playing the second leg at home, assuming that they can achieve a positive result on their travels next month.
Disappointing loss to Poland
It could all have been so different had they succeeded in pegging Poland back in their final group D qualifier. As it was, a 2-1 reversal to the Poles ensured that it would be they rather than the Irish who secured the second automatic qualification place behind the reigning World Champions, the Germans.
Qualifying group highs and lows
Bosnia finished third behind Belgium and Wales in group B, yet showed admirable form against the Welsh to take four points off them in qualifying. An away defeat to Israel and a costly home reversal against Cyprus proved their undoing though.
The Republic will hope to draw inspiration from a solid qualifying group, including an away draw and home victory over Germany. They also have the confidence from beating the Bosnians in their only previous meeting in 2012, when current international Shane Long scored the winner.
Two leg play-off
O’Neill will be hoping for fortune on the injury front between now and the first leg against Bosnia on 13th November. Then with home support to draw on three days later, the Irish will look to clinch their place alongside the other home nations at the Euro finals. O’Neill admitted to BBC Sport that if there is a slight benefit, then “it's maybe that the second game will be in Dublin.”
Full play-off draw
With a further four places in France available via the play-offs, the stakes for all of the eight teams involved are high and failure means missing out on what promises to be an intriguing finals. The full play-off draw was:
Ukraine v Slovenia
Sweden v Denmark
Bosnia-Herzegovina v Republic of Ireland
Norway v Hungary
The first leg ties will be played between November 12th and 14th, with the return legs on November 15th to 17th.
Swedes hope Ibrahimovic fires for them
The pick of the ties could be Sweden against Scandinavian rivals Denmark, with many neutrals secretly hoping that the Swedes will provide the talismanic Zlatan Ibrahimović with one last hurrah at a major championships. Now 34-years-old, the mercurial PSG striker can’t have many more opportunities remaining to showcase his formidable talents on the great European stages. With former Premier League players Daniel Agger and Nicklas Bendtner in the Danish squad it makes for an interesting contest. #Football #Euro2016