Euro 2016: Who could Ireland face in the qualification play-offs?

Euro 2016: Who could Ireland face in the qualification play-offs?

IRELAND'S potential opponents for the European Championships qualification play-offs have been confirmed as one of Sweden, Ukraine, Bosnia or Hungary.

Ireland have been pitted in the unseeded half of the draw along with Denmark, Norway and Slovenia, but Martin O’Neill was dealt a boost on Tuesday night following the elimination of Holland and the automatic qualification of Croatia.

However, there is still plenty to be feared in Ireland’s potential opponents ahead of Sunday’s draw, with the two-legged ties to take place next month, and we’ve broken down what the four nations bring to the table.


Zlatan Ibrahimovic [Picture: Getty] Zlatan Ibrahimovic [Picture: Getty]
Key player: Zlatan Ibrahimovic (PSG)
Current FIFA world ranking:
Average FIFA world ranking: 21
Recent form:
In short: Despite their plummet down the world rankings since 2013, it’s hard to imagine a European Championships without serial-qualifiers Sweden. A poor campaign by their standards, lack of quality beyond the top three in Group G meant Sweden’s place of at least a play-off was rarely in doubt. Although their stats of 15 goals scored and nine conceded in a mediocre group indicates that they’re beatable, Ireland have only won three of their 10 meetings with the Scandinavians. The presence of world-class striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic would also prove a mental and physical stumbling block for Ireland’s defence.


Yevhen Konoplyanka [Picture: Getty] Yevhen Konoplyanka [Picture: Getty]
Key player: Yevhen Konoplyanka (Sevilla FC)
Current FIFA world ranking:
Average FIFA world ranking: 43
Recent form: WWDWL
In short: Ireland could do without being pitted with defensively-solid Ukraine, with only automatic qualifiers Spain, England and Romania conceding fewer goals than them (three) during the group campaign. That said, they don’t score many either, registering just 14 in 10 games compared to Ireland’s 19, although 11 of Ireland’s goals came against minnows Gibraltar alone. All signs point to a potentially low-scoring, drab tie that could be settled by one moment of class. Sadly, though, Ireland are in short supply of class right now.


Edin Dzeko [Picture: Getty] Edin Dzeko [Picture: Getty]
Key player: Edin Dzeko (Roma)
Current FIFA world ranking: 30
Average FIFA world Ranking: 62
Recent form: WLWWW
In short: After a dreadful start to their qualifying campaign, Bosnia picked things up in 2015 and four wins in their last five games means they’re heading into the play-offs in fine form. Unlike Ireland, they’re heavily reliant upon one player – Edin Dzeko, currently on loan at Roma from Manchester City. The big striker has a worryingly good international record – 44 goals in 74 appearances. Furthermore, Bosnia scored in all but two of their 10 group games, netting in every home game. Perhaps a better draw than Ukraine though.


Tamás Priskin [Picture: Getty] Tamás Priskin [Picture: Getty]
Key player: Tamás Priskin (Slovan Bratislava)
Current FIFA world ranking: 33
Average FIFA world ranking: 54
Recent form: WDDWWL
In short: With all due respect to Hungary, this is the draw Ireland want. Northern Ireland took four points off them during the group campaign, so it’s reasonable to believe the Republic can remain unbeaten over two games against them too. Captain Balázs Dzsudzsák, veteran Zoltán Gera and goal-getter Tamás Priskin - who Ireland defenders will be familiar with through his time with Watford and Ipswich, are their key players - but on paper they’re the weakest threat of the four teams, despite being 21 places above Ireland in the flawed world rankings system.