Euro’s 2016 – Ireland
The draw was made for the 2016 European Championships which will be hosted in France. The Republic of Ireland, now under the new management of legends Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane, were hoping for a favorable draw in an effort to get the Irish back to a major tournament, having missed out on qualification for this year’s World Cup in Brazil.
Unfortunately, the draw was not as kind as all had hoped. The Irish will have their work cut out for themselves in their efforts to make Euro ’16.
The biggest news with the draw was that Ireland will once again face Germany, favorites to win this year’s World Cup, and who will be undoubtedly be favorites to win it all in 2016 s well. During the country’s last campaign to qualify for Brazil, you may remember that Ireland were thrashed by the German’s in Dublin’s Aviva Stadium by a score of 6-1, followed by a 3-0 loss in Germany when temporary manager Noel King was in charge.
Ireland have been drawn into Group D. The other teams include Scotland, Poland, Georgia and international newcomers Gibraltar. The good news out of all of this is that for the first time ever, a total of 24 teams will qualify for the actual tournament, rather than the recent traditional 16 teams. This means that the top two teams from each group will automatically go through, plus the 3rd placed team with the overall best record. Additionally, the remaining 8 third placed teams will contest play-offs, with 4 ultimately going through.
We Irish are always looking for a good omen, and in this case, I have found one – the Republic of Ireland were last involved in a group with Scotland when they qualified for Euro ’88, so let’s hope history repeats itself. Ironically, Gordon Strachan, who replaced Irish manager Martin O’Neill as manager of Celtic several years ago, now manages Scotland, so there should be a healthy rivalry with the two gaffers.
Poland and Ireland played out a scoreless 0-0 draw in November. Ireland beat Georgia on both occasions they faced off, in the run up for qualification for the 2010 World Cup, although in both games the Georgians proved to be stubborn opposition and have got slightly better since then.
Gibraltar are a completely unknown factor; this is the first tournament they have tried to qualify for – they were only recently approved as an official country football association. It would be normal to expect full points against the minnows, but football can be a funny auld game sometimes.
After the draw was made, the Irish manager commented: “It is a difficult group, but an exciting one, and the games against Scotland will be a great occasion”. O’Neill suggested that the Germans would likely qualify as group winners, but that “it looks like a group, apart from Germany, where teams might be able to take points off each other”.
On the flip side, Scottish manager Strachan commented that: “the commercial manager is happy. Every tie, there’s something in it. You’ve got Gibraltar, new to the completion; Germany, one of the best teams in the world; the Republic of Ireland; Poland, who we play in a friendly – we’ve just decided to knock that one in the head”. He added “it’s exciting, there are some groups you might call mundane, but we’re definitely in an exciting group”.
The full draw of groups in team is shown below. Qualifiers will take place between September 7, 2014 and October 13, 2015, with the playoff matches in November 2015. Ireland will start their campaign away to Georgia on September 7th this year, followed by a home game against new boys Gibraltar.
GROUP A: Netherlands, Czech Republic, Turkey, Latvia, Iceland, Kazakhstan
GROUP B: Bosnia-Hercegovina, Belgium, Israel, Wales, Cyprus, Andorra
GROUP C: Spain, Ukraine, Slovakia, Belarus, Macedonia, Luxembourg
GROUP D: Germany, Republic of Ireland, Poland, Scotland, Georgia, Gibraltar
GROUP E: England, Switzerland, Slovenia, Estonia, Lithuania, San Marino
GROUP F: Greece, Hungary, Romania, Finland, Northern Ireland, Faroe Islands
GROUP G: Russia, Sweden, Austria, Montenegro, Moldova, Liechtenstein
GROUP H: Italy, Croatia, Norway, Bulgaria, Azerbaijan, Malta
GROUP I: Portugal, Denmark, Serbia, Armenia, Albania
Trivia: First, last month’s question: The Republic of Ireland will unfortunately not be at this year’s football world cup that takes place in Brazil this summer; when was the last time they played at the tournament? 2002 - when they qualified for the Korea-Japan World Cup and where they reached the final 16.
This month’s question: When Ireland played at the 1988 Euro’s, they beat England 1-0. Christy Moore wrote a legendary song about it – who scored the only goal that fine afternoon?
*Mark Owens is originally from Derry City, Ireland and has resided in the Cleveland area since 2001. Mark is the Director of Marketing for Skylight Financial Group in Cleveland. Send questions, comments or suggestions for future articles to Mark at: email@example.com