Tough Euro 2016 draw for Martin O’Neill’s Ireland
Fixtures announced as Germany, Poland and Scotland await new management team
Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill must prepare his side to meet Germany. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho
Martin O’Neill’s Republic of Ireland side have been drawn again in a tough qualifying group with Germany for Euro 2016.
With Poland, Scotland, Georgia and Gibraltar, Group D looks a big ask but with the European Championships extended to a 24-team tournament, there are, in theory, three places up for grabs.
Germany will be hot favourites to top it but, below them, Poland and Gordon Strachan’s Scotland will, like Ireland, feel an automatic qualification spot is achievable behind Joachim Löw’s side.
Ireland will open the campaign against Georgia in Tblisi on Sunday, September 7th, and will play on every day of the week, bar Wednesday, thereafter. They are due to host Gibraltar on Saturday, October 11th, before travelling to Germany for an October 14th (Tuesday) fixture. They round of the year with an away trip to Scotland on Friday, November 14th.
Two crucial games follow in 2015, at home to Poland on Sunday, March 29th, and then in Dublin again against Scotland on Saturday, June 13th.
O'Neill's side is away to Gibraltar on Friday, September 4th, and will host Georgia at home the following Monday.
Closing the campaign will be a tricky business against Germany at the Aviva Stadium on Thursday, October 8th, and then away to Poland on the Sunday, October 11th, coincidentally the same day Ireland will meet France in the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
The top two sides in each group will qualify automatically as will the third placed side with the best record against the teams finishing first, second, fourth and fifth in their group.
The remaining eight third placed sides will enter play-offs for the last four places at the 24 team tournament.
“It’s a tough group, y’know,” Ireland goalkeeper David Forde told RTE today. “You’re looking at Germany, who are probably the strongest outfit and you’re looking at the likes of Poland, Scotland and ourselves in that mini-league to qualify for that second spot.
Rep of Ireland's Euro 2016 Fixture list
“We beat Poland at home and drew 0-0 away recently, as well, so, we know that we need to be on our game but if we are at our best I think we can qualify.”
Ireland endured a torrrid time at home to Germany in the World Cup 2014 qualifiers, when they were beaten 6-1 at home in October 2012 and 3-0 in Stuttgart a year later, despite a much-improved performance.
Ireland beat Poland 2-0 in February of last year, thanks to goals in either half from Ciaran Clark and Wes Hoolahan.
They last met Scotland in May 2011, when a Robbie Keane goal steered them to a 1-0 Carling Nations Cup win.
Under Strachan, however, the Scots have enjoyed something of a resurgence and Forde knows they will be a tough test.
“Yeah, they have done very well at Hampden Park,” added Forde. “I think they’ve beaten Croatia recently as well there. They are looking strong enough, Strachan seems to have got them going and got some belief back into the side.
“It’s great to have a ‘home’ nation in there as well, which makess it very exciting too.”
Euro 2016 Draw
Group A: Netherlands, Czech Rep, Turkey, Latvia, Iceland, Kazakshtan
Group B: Bosnia-Herzegovina, Belgium, Israel, Wales, Cyprus, Andorra
Group C: Spain, Ukraine, Slovakia, Belarus, Macedonia, Luxembourg
Group D: Germany, Rep of Ireland , Poland, Scotland, Georgia, Gibraltar
Group E: England, Switzerland, Slovenia, Estonia, Lithuania, San Mario
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, France*