Editorial – The Republic of Ireland will play in the Path B playoff next March. Should they win their single-game semifinal and final, they will head to the UEFA Euro 2020. It would be their third straight appearance in the tournament.
Ireland Euro 2020 Chances
If they qualify, the Path B playoff would put the Green Army in Group E with Spain, Sweden, and Poland. Should this generation get to the knockout round of the Euro as the nation did in 2016, they will be put up there with some of Ireland’s greatest football teams.
With that, let’s take a look at the Republic of Ireland’s chances at qualifying for the tournament.
In the semifinal, they will face Slovakia on the road. The other semifinal will feature Northern Ireland at Bosnia and Herzegovina. Both matches will be played on March 26. The final will be on March 31, with the winner of Northern Ireland and Bosnia and Herzegovina hosting.
The Green Army will thus have to win two road matches to qualify for next summer. They are on roughly level pegging with Northern Ireland and Slovakia, all of whom finished third in their group in Nations League B this year. Bosnia and Herzegovina, the most recent World Cup participant of the four, however won their group and will be promoted to League A.
Shane Duffy will have to lead the defense well in both matches. Ireland will also need something special from the attack, as just two players from recent squads have double-digit goals internationally (Shane Long and James McClean). If the defense can contain Marek Hamsik, they should be able to beat Slovakia.
Predicting the final will be more difficult. Bosnia and Herzegovina will be likely favorites to advance over Northern Ireland, as the better side playing at home. Should Northern Ireland advance, that final would be a coin toss with two evenly matched sides, a short distance to travel for the away side, and a local derby.
It is difficult to see Ireland advancing over Bosnia and Herzegovina. Ireland did defeat them in a two-leg playoff to qualify for the tournament in 2016, but that was with Jonathan Walters starting at striker and a younger Glenn Whelan in defense. Edin Dzeko is having a fine season with AS Roma and if healthy and fit, would be the best player on the field in this match up.
Group E would be an even tougher challenge for Ireland with Spain favored to win the group and a talented and improving Sweden side in a good position to challenge if they were to get a result against Spain. Spain and Poland were both in Nations League A this year and Sweden won promotion from League B.
Ireland would be expected to be eliminated in the group stage as would the other Path B sides. If this writer had to predict the Ireland Euro 2020 chances, I would say they do not qualify. They will defeat Slovakia but then lose to Bosnia and Herzegovina in the final.