Ireland to face Ukraine, Bosnia, Sweden or Hungary

Euro 2016: Draw for the play-offs, in which Ireland will be unseeded, will be made on Sunday

The Republic of Ireland will be unseeded in next Sunday morning’s draw for the play-off of the European Championships with Martin O’Neill’s lucky numbers failing to come up in the last three groups to be decided on Tuesday night.

There was plenty of drama to the way it all ended with Turkey, down to 10 men from the 78th minute after Gokhan Tore was sent off, grabbing a last minute winner to make sure of third spot in Group A. That result, combined with Kazakhstan's somewhat unexpected victory in Latvia meant that the Turks qualified automatically for the finals as the best of the third placed sides.

They did so at the expense of Hungary who were dumped back into the play-offs where they, Ukraine, Sweden and Bosnia and Herzegovina will be seeded for the play-off game in the middle of next month,.

The Bosnians made it through after coming out on top of a dramatic game in Nicosia where Cyprus, who had won the first meeting between the two sides last year, came from behind to lead 2-1, at which stage they were on course to make the play-offs themselves, before eventually going down by three goals to two.

Norway, meanwhile, were squeezed out of the top two in Group H after having led at the break away to Italy where they needed all three points. Their hosts scored twice while Croatia managed to win just 1-0 in Malta to leapfrog their rivals.

Ukraine look to be about the most daunting of the possible opponents for Ireland now if only because of the difficult trip that would involved in the way game. Bosnia and Herzegovina also finished their group strongly and would look to represent a major challenge given the quality of some of their players while with Sweden, who Ireland faced in the qualifying stages of the last World Cup, there would be Zlatan Ibrahimovic to contend with again. Hungary probably look about the weakest of the seeds.

None of the four particularly distinguished themselves, though, and while Martin O’Neill might have preferred to take one from Norway, Denmark or Slovenia, the other unseeded sides; neither he nor his players will have any complaints if they fail to make it to France next summer.


Having finished just a point behind England and eight ahead of Poland in the 2014 World Cup qualifiers, this has been a bit of a disappointment with Ukraine finishing third this time around behind Spain and Slovakia in what was always going to be a three horse race. A point in Zilina was as good as it got for them against wither of their rivals.

Seville’s Yevhen Konoplyanka is the most prominent of the team’s very few overseas stars but there are quite a few at the big local clubs, Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk, Shaktar Donetsk and Dynamo Kiev. The latter’s Andriy Yarmolenko was the team’s top scorer with four in 10 although three came in one game against Luxembourg.

Heading there in mid November is unlikely to be high on the wishlist of Martin O’Neill of many of his players.

Ireland's record against them: Have never met.

In competitive games: have never met.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

The campaign has been a major disappointment for the Bosnians who would have been desperate to build on their first appearance at a major championship last year.

They lost their opening game, at home to Cyprus and having then drawn in Cardiff and at home to Belgium they were well beaten in Israel after which they simply had too much to do to close the gap on the top two.

They have a decent squad; Asmir Begovic, Miralem Pjanic and Senad Lulic all playing big parts. Young Everton midfielder Muhamed besic also made an impact at time although the presence of Edin Dzecko, now at Roma, would be more of a concern too; he got seven goals in seven games.

Ireland's record against them: P1 D0 L0 F1 A0

In competitive games: have never met.


They started the campaign well, with a draw in Vienna; the only points that the Austrians would drop as it turned out, but lost the return game 1-4 and couldn’t beat Russia home or away.

The squad looks decidedly ordinary and Ireland played very well against them in Stockholm in the last campaign before losing the return match with the Swedes going on to the play-offs where they lost to Portugal.

Those games turned into a shoot out between Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Ronaldo which the Portuguese narrowly won. The PSG striker scored eight in eight over the course of this campaign, though, which would cause our defenders some concern over the coming weeks.

Ireland's record against them: P10 W3 D2 L5 F13 A16

In competitive games: P6 W0 D2 L4 F4 A10


They’ll feel slightly robbed by the late Turkey goal that consigned them to the play-offs but the Hungarians have no complaints given that they could only take one point from six against their group’s bottom placed side; Greece, and had only really been leading the race for the best third place spot by virtue of Greece’s poor results against the Faroe Islands.

Still, it would have been their first European Championships since Belgium in 1972 when the whole affair was a four team tournament that started with the semi-finals so there would have been some sentimental appeal to them making it.

They still can, of course, and the seeding will certainly help but you wouldn’t bet on it given that they couldn’t beat either of the top two teams in Group F, Northern Ireland or Romania, either.

Ireland's record against them: P12 W2 D5 L5 F18 A25

In competitive games: P4 W1 D1 L2 F3 A6

** Seedings are subject to confirmation by Uefa.