Ireland to face Portugal in World Cup qualifying group
Stephen Kenny's side will also meet Serbia, Luxembourg and Azerbaijan in Group A
The Republic of Ireland will face Portugal and Serbia in qualifying Group A for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. This evening’s draw pitted Stephen Kenney’s side, who were among the third seeds, against top seeds Portugal and Serbia from Pot 2.
Luxembourg and Azerbaijan will complete the group.
“It is an exciting group. Portugal are the European champions and the Nations League champions, and Serbia of course have great pedigree,” Kenny said after the draw.
“Luxembourg are a vastly improved team, and Azerbaijan. So it is an exciting group, and the fact that it is a five-team group means we’ve not got the congested three competitive games in the window in March, so it means back to the more traditional two.
“It’s an interesting group for us. To lose to Slovakia on penalties (in the Euro 2020 playoffs) was difficult for the players. They worked so hard and performed so well on the night.
“It’s a new campaign and I think we’ll have a lot of players back from March, and I think that is exciting. We have to do our utmost to try to qualify.”
World champions France were handed an apparently comfortable draw when they were placed with Ukraine, Finland, Bosnia and Kazakhstan in European Group D.
The French recently beat Ukraine 7-1 in a friendly although their opponents were weakened by Covid-19 related absences.
Old rivals England and Poland will face each other again as they were placed in Group I while Spain must get past Sweden, who qualified for the 2018 World Cup at the expense of Italy, in Group B.
Italy themselves must face Switzerland, Northern Ireland, Bulgaria and Lithuania in Group C.
The qualifiers will take place between March and November next year. Qualification play-offs will be played in March 2022.
In total, 13 European countries will feature at Qatar 2022. These will be the 10 group winners, plus three further countries via the play-offs. The play-offs will feature the 10 group runners-up, alongside the two sides ranked highest in the 2020-21 Nations League who have not already qualified as a group winner or secured a runner-up spot.
Those 12 teams will be split into three separate paths, with the winner of each booking a ticket to Qatar.
For the first time ever the World Cup will be played in November and December of 2022 to avoid the intense summer heat in the Middle East.
Portugal, Serbia, Republic of Ireland, Luxembourg, Azerbaijan
Spain, Sweden, Greece, Georgia, Kosovo
France, Ukraine, Finland, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kazakhstan
Belgium, Wales, Czech Republic, Belarus, Estonia
Denmark, Austria, Scotland, Israel, Faroe Islands, Moldova
Netherlands, Turkey, Norway, Montenegro, Latvia, Gibraltar
England, Poland, Hungary, Albania, Andorra, San Marino
Germany, Romania, Iceland, North Macedonia, Armenia, Liechtenstein
Matchday 1: March 24-25, 2021
Matchday 2: March 27-28, 2021
Matchday 3: March 30-31, 2021
Matchday 4: September 1-2, 2021
Matchday 5: September 4-5, 2021
Matchday 6: September 7-8, 2021
Matchday 7: October 8-9, 2021
Matchday 8: October 11-12, 2021
Matchday 9: November 11-13, 2021
Matchday 10: November 14-16, 2021