Ireland reduce ‘seed’ of doubt with Euro placing

Martin O’Neill

Martin O’Neill

Ireland’s chances of obtaining a generous draw for the 2016 European Championship qualification stages have been helped after UEFA listed them as second seeds in the first phase of the draw for the next tournament, held in France in two summers’ time.

Ireland are one of nine seeds and Martin O’Neill’s side join Ukraine, Croatia, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, Belgium, Czech Republic and Hungary in pot two, while Northern Ireland have been included in pot 5.

The draw for the qualifying groups takes place on 23rd February in Nice, while the opening round of fixtures will take place between 7th and 9th September 2014, less than two months after the World Cup final is held in Brazil.

Holders Spain are named in pot one alongside Germany, Netherlands, Italy, England, Portugal, Greece, Russia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

UEFA are evidently looking to ‘jazz’ up for formats for the qualifiers as hosts France will also be named in one of the nine groups, however, their fixtures will just be considered friendly internationals with no points available.

Alongside this, they are also introducing the concept of a ‘Week of Football’, where matches will be played from Tuesday to Thursday.

Matches can be played on any day within the ‘week’, while double-header weeks will involve countries playing on Thursday/Sunday, Friday/Monday or Saturday/Tuesday – how this will impact players who have to play on Thursday evening then on a Saturday in the league will be interesting.

One would have thought that most Managers would prefer the Thursday/Sunday double-header so they get their players back to their clubs earlier. For the travelling fan, it does mean that games played on a weekend (Saturday/Sunday) make a welcome return in order to attend these games.

Apart from the seeding, the only other restrictions will ensure that Azerbaijan cannot meet Armenia and Spain cannot play Gibraltar for political reasons.

Pot one: Spain (holders), Germany, Netherland, Italy, England, Portugal, Greece, Russia, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Pot two: Ukraine, Croatia, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, Belgium, Czech Republic, Hungary, Republic of Ireland.

Pot three: Serbia, Turkey, Slovenia, Israel, Norway, Slovakia, Romania, Austria, Poland.

Pot four: Montenegro, Armenia, Scotland, Finland, Latvia, Wales, Bulgaria, Estonia, Belarus.

Pot five: Iceland, Northern Ireland, Albania, Lithuania, Moldova, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Cyprus.

Pot six: Luxembourg, Kazakhstan, Liechtenstein, Faroe Islands, Malta, Andorra, San Marino, Gibraltar.

Although any game in international football is a difficult one, if Ireland were to look at all the teams they could be drawn with, a group containing Bosnia and Herzegovina, Poland, Armenia, Moldova and San Marino would be a cracking start.

A group containing the likes of Spain, Belgium, Israel, Finland, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan would be the un-perfect mixture of extremely talented teams and long, tiring journeys to the outer reaches of Europe.

UEFA EURO 2016 European Qualifiers calendar

  • Matchday 1: 7–9 September 2014
  • Matchday 2: 9–11 October 2014
  • Matchday 3: 12–14 October 2014
  • Matchday 4: 14–16 November 2014
  • Matchday 5: 27–29 March 2015
  • Matchday 6: 12–14 June 2015
  • Matchday 7: 3–5 September 2015
  • Matchday 8: 6–8 September 2015
  • Matchday 9: 8–10 October 2015
  • Matchday 10: 11–13 October 2015
  • Play-off first leg: 12–14 November 2015
  • Play-off second leg: 15–17 November 2015
  • Final tournament draw: 12 December 2015
  • Final tournament (France): 10 June–10 July 2016