It’s June 15th 2020 at the Aviva Stadium. Republic of Ireland fans who bought tickets a year ago are welcoming Polish fans for the first game, and four days later will welcom Swedish fans.
And that welcome could well be as neaturals, as Ireland have to win two away games to even get in to the tournament despite being one of the hosts. There is light at the end of the tunnel in what at times has felt like a never ending qualification phase for the pan-European Euro 2020. Here’s how Ireland can get there and who they will play.
How Did We Get Here Anyway
Way back at the start of all this the Republic of Ireland were in Division B of the Nations League. I don’t fully understand the Nations League and it frightens me a bit but all I know is Ireland got relegated and will be in League C next time around.
The Boys in Green then went into the standard qualifying group, alongside Switzerland, Denmark (for what on my count was the 9005th time in 3 years), and georgia and Gibraltar. Ireland only managed to score 7 goals in their 8th games, finishing 3rd. One of thos was an own goal, and three of them were against minnows Gibraltar. Due to Ireland’s overall position in the Nations League rankings, which again, I don’t understand but find terrifying, Ireland will now go into the Play-Offs.
Away Days Loom
First up Ireland go to Slovakia to play… let me check… Slovakia, that makes sense. Slovakia’s top scorers in the qualifiers were Róbert Boženík and Marek Hamšík with 3 goals each. They also boast a top defender in Milan Škriniar of Italian giants (at least earlier in the decade) Internazionale. Last time Ireland played Slovakia, the game finished 2 – 2 in a Euro 2016 warm-up.
If Ireland beat Slovakia they will face either Bosnia & Herzegovina or Northern Ireland. This game will be away from home.
IF We Get There?
If Ireland win Play-Off Path B, they will go into Group E, alongside Spain (also hosts), Sweden, and Poland. Ireland’s games against Poland and Sweden would be in the Aviva Stadium, while they would play Spain in the San Mamés, Bilbao (the oldest football stadium in Spain).
As for the knockouts, it’s far to early to call but if Ireland were to win the group (for what it’s worth the weather forecast does not call for hell to be particularly cold around that time of year), Ireland would play the 3rd place team in either Group A, B, C, or D in Glasgow. If Ireland were to finish as runner-up, they would play the runner-up of Group D in Coppenhagen. This would likely be England or Croatia. If IReland were to finish as one of the best 3rd placed teams they would either face the winner of Group C (Of which Netherlands are favorites), or the winner of group B (of which Belgium are favorites).
There we have it, there’s a long way to go but if Ireland get there they’ll have two home games.
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