The best and worst qualification groups Ireland could get for Euro 2024
Ireland could face a difficult task to qualify for Euro 2024.
The Republic of Ireland avoided relegation from the Uefa Nations League on Tuesday night with a narrow 3-2 victory over Armenia.
Robbie Brady's last-minute penalty gave Ireland all three points after the away side had mounted a comeback from two goals down. Ireland were in control for most of the match, but the manner of victory was fortunate after a dreadful spell during the second half.
Stephen Kenny's team, however, may not be as fortunate when the draw for the Euro 2024 qualification groups is made on October 9.
Ireland's performance in the Nations League means that they will be in Pot 3 for the draw and could face an extremely difficult draw.
Euro 2024 qualifying format.
Before looking at the best and worst Euro 2024 groups Ireland could get, let's look at the qualification format.
Euro 2024 will feature 24 teams, with one place reserved for tournament hosts Germany. In the qualification campaign, there will be 10 groups with the top two teams from each group qualifying directly for the Euros.
The final three places will be decided in a playoff format.
Euro 2024 playoffs - how do they work?
There will be 12 teams in the playoffs. The winners of each group in Leagues A, B and C are guaranteed a playoff place.
If these teams all qualify automatically, their place will go to the next-best ranked side. If there aren't enough non-qualified teams in the same league, then the selection process moves down to the next league, ending with League D.
So, for example, if every team from League A qualifies automatically, their playoff places will be filled by the best-ranked teams from League B who have not qualified for Euro 2024. The playoff tournament will be a one-leg semi-final and final.
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Ireland are ranked 26th overall in the Nations League, and 10th in League B. So, to get a playoff place, they will need as many of the higher-ranked teams as possible to qualify directly for the tournament. Or they could qualify directly by finishing in the top two of their group.
Yet, as the permutations, and Ireland's form, show, this will be a difficult task. There are no easy draws for Kenny's team, which isn't a surprise given that they have won just four of their last 21 competitive games.
Confirmed pots for Euro 2024 qualification.
Here are the pots for the qualification draw. (Uefa have banned Russia and they will not take part in Euro 2024). One team from each pot will be drawn into a group, with the top two from each group qualifying for the Euros.
Pot 1: Netherlands, Croatia, Spain, Italy, Denmark, Portugal, Belgium, Hungary, Switzerland, Poland.
Pot 2: France, Austria, Czech Republic, England, Wales, Israel, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Serbia, Scotland, Finland.
Pot 3: Ukraine, Iceland, Norway, Slovenia, Republic of Ireland, Albania, Montenegro, Romania, Sweden, Armenia.
Pot 4: Georgia, Greece, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Luxembourg, Azerbaijan, Kosovo, Bulgaria, Faroe Islands, North Macedonia.
Pot 5: Slovakia, Northern Ireland, Cyprus, Belarus, Lithuania, Gibraltar, Estonia, Latvia, Moldova, Malta.
Pot 6: Andorra, San Marino, Liechtenstein.
And here are the best and worst draws Ireland could get.
The best 2024 qualification group Ireland could get.
- Republic of Ireland
- Faroe Islands
This is arguably the best Euro 2024 qualification group Ireland could get.
Croatia have reached the Nations League finals next June, so they will be placed in a five-team qualification group to free up two matchdays to accommodate the tournament finals next summer.
Croatia, who reached the 2018 World Cup final, should win this group comfortably, but the top two qualify so Ireland may still have a chance to finish second.
Israel earned promotion to League A and guaranteed themselves a playoff place. They are, however, the lowest-ranked team in Pot 2. The Faroe Islands and Malta make up the five-team group.
On paper, this is a favourable group for Ireland. Yet, the draw is rarely this kind and Kenny's side have lost games to teams considered minnows, such as Luxembourg and Armenia.
There is also little evidence from the last few years to suggest that Ireland should be overly confident of finishing in the top two of this group.
That being said, however, this would almost certainly be the best draw the national team could get.
The worst Euro 2024 qualification group Ireland could get.
- Republic of Ireland
Ireland fans can talk about the team's 'positives' from recent matches, and Kenny can be as defiant as he likes, but there is arguably no chance that Ireland would finish in the top two of this qualification group.
Belgium have been the top-ranked team in the world for the last few years, France are the reigning world champions, Turkey are the strongest side from Pot 4 and Slovakia advanced past Ireland in the playoff for Euro 2020. Andorra are the top-ranked team in Pot 6.
If Ireland end up in this group Ireland, their qualification campaign will effectively be over and they'll be relying on results elsewhere to fall into a playoff place.
A draw like this would also highlight the importance of a strong Nations League campaign. Ireland need as much help as they can possibly get to reach a tournament, and securing a playoff place would have provided that.
Scotland, for example, are guaranteed a playoff place for Euro 2024 after earning promotion from Ireland's Nations League group. The qualification campaign effectively began with the Nations League, as the team's performance in the tournament directly impacts their seeding for the Euros qualification group.
Qualification draws, however, are rarely this cruel. Ireland may find themselves in a challenging, if not impossible, group. Here's an example of such a group:
- Republic of Ireland
- San Marino
In this group, Poland would be the favourites to finish top and it looks like a shoot-out between Wales and Ireland for second place, with Georgia a tricky opponent.
Welsh stars such as Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey may be coming to the end of their careers, but they still have a solid core of players. Ireland have lost three of their last four games against the Welsh.
So, again, there is no reason for Kenny or anyone associated with the Ireland team to be overly confident of excelling in this group given the team's form.
Ireland's Euro 2024 qualification campaign.
In truth, the Boys in Green face a tough group in almost every potential draw.
It is extremely difficult to imagine Ireland finishing ahead of the sides in Pot 1, alongside France and England in Pot 2.
However, even the lower and mid-ranked teams in Pot 2, such as Finland, Scotland, Serbia, Wales, and Austria, have beaten Ireland in recent years.
The Euro 2024 qualification campaign could be a defining one for Kenny, who insists his team are improving even if their seeding isn't. He will need a kind draw to build upon any progress made so far.
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