Ireland’s World Cup rivals: the lowdown on who we will face

Emmet Malone runs the rule over Republic's qualifying opponents in Group A

Ronaldo and co having won Euro2016 and the first edition of the Nations League over the past few years. Photo: Getty Images

Ronaldo and co having won Euro2016 and the first edition of the Nations League over the past few years. Photo: Getty Images

 

Portugal

World Ranking: 5

Ireland’s record against them: W4 D2 L7

There was never going to be any way of avoiding having to come up against a good team and Portugal are certainly that with Ronaldo and co having won Euro2 016 and the first edition of the Nations League over the past few years. They beat Ireland 5-1 in the most recent encounter between the two sides, a friendly in the US, and with the likes of Diego Jota, Bernardo Silva and Rapahael Guerreirro in their squad, they will clearly start as strong favourites to win the group.

Serbia

World Ranking: 30

Ireland’s record against them: W0 D3 L2

The fact that they beat Russia 5-0 last time out gives an indication of what they are capable of on their day but Serbia’s wider record over the last year or two is somewhat less daunting and getting them means Ireland have avoided some significantly stronger teams. That said, they have plenty of talent in the squad and young players coming through as long established stars like Aleksandar Kolarov, Dusan Tadic and Nemanja Matic leave their best years behind them. Their last meeting with Ireland was in a 2018 World Cup qualifier they won in Dublin (the away game finished 2-2 earlier in the campaign) thanks to a Kolarov goal.

Aleksandar Kolarov of Serbia scores against Ireland in 2017. Photograph: Tommy Grealy/Inpho
Aleksandar Kolarov of Serbia scores against Ireland in 2017. Photograph: Tommy Grealy/Inpho

Luxembourg

World Ranking: 98

Ireland’s record against them: W5 D0 L0

Snuck in to the fourth pot and on the face of it Ireland are lucky to have drawn them for there would appear to have been tougher sides in there. Ireland have won the previous five meetings between the two sides and will hope to maintain the record although you have to go back to qualifying for Euro’88 for the last encounter and Jack Charlton’s side had to come from behind to win that one courtesy of goals by Frank Stapleton and Paul McGrath.

Azerbaijan

World Ranking: 109

Ireland’s record against them: W0 D0 L0

Ireland would have drawn Kosovo but for the political restrictions and Azerbaijan are something of an unknown quantity with the two sides never having met. Managed by former Torino and Udinese boss Gianni De Biasi their last four games have been scoreless draws and they lost to Luxembourg 2-1 in the Nationals League at the start of the year. Most of their players play at home at the oil rich country’s leading clubs like Qarabag, Sumgayit and Neftci.

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