Group D: The lowdown on the Republic of Ireland’s opponents
Fifaranking:8 Manager: VladimirPetkovic
■ Being drawn against the team ranked eighth in the world and one of the four Uefa Nations League finalists should be a daunting prospect but, ultimately, the Swiss are one of the more favour able opponents Ireland could have faced from pot one. Switzerland have qualified comfortably for the last three major international tournaments, entering each as potential dark horses. Yet they have failed to really make their mark on the biggest stage, exiting the 2014 and 2018 World Cups–and the 2016 Eur os– after the first knock out round.Xh erda nS haqiri remains their star player, while 23- year-old Bo russia Dortmund centre- half Manuel Akjani is one of Europe’s brightest defensive prospects. Mick McCarthy’s final game during his first stint in charge of the Republic of Ireland was a 2-1 defeat to the Swiss at home. However, Switzerland’ s 5-2 Nations League win over Belgium shows exacting revenge won’ t be easy.
Fifaranking: 10 Manager: ÅgeHareide ■ Here we go again. The Republic of Ireland have played Denmark four times since November 2017, grinding out three goal less draw sand receiving a pretty grim 5-1 hammer in gin Dublin. That night it was Christian Eriksen who destroyed Martin O’ Neil l’ s side and dashed World Cup dreams, and the Tot ten ham schemer will be the obvious danger when rivalries are renewed next year. The Dan es without Erik sen–who is truly world class–area far less imposing proposition. However, Hareide’s side are well organised and the Republic of Ireland didn’ t get close to breaking them down in 180 minutes of huffing and puffing during the Nations League. That perhaps says more about Ireland in the dying embers of the O’Neill era than it does the Dan es, and providing they are rejuvenated under McCarthy then the latest trip to Copenhagen shouldn’ t be one full of trepidation.
Fifaranking: 89 Manager: VladimírWeiss ■ Georgia were one of the Republic of Ireland’ s opponents during qualification for the 2016 European Championships, and proved particularly useful bed fellows. As well as providing Martin O’ Neil l’ s men with six price less points they also did their bit by beating Group D rivals Scotland 1-0. The two sides were brought together again during qualification for the 2018 World Cup and the Georgians dished out a bit of revenge–holding Ireland to a particularly dismal and damaging 1-1 draw in Tbilisi. While they are ranked 89 thin the world, Vladimír We is s’ s side will enter qualification with plenty of confidence after a fine Nations League campaign. Georgia earned promotion from League D after rom ping their group, winning five games and drawing one with a goal difference of +10. Granted, their opponents were Kazakhstan, Latvia and Andorra, but now they’ ve picked up the winning habit the Georgians could be potentially sticky opposition.
Fifaranking: 194 Manager: JulioCésarRibas ■ Gibraltar were another member of the Republic of Ireland’ sE uro 2016 qualification group, which was their first campaign after being granted full member status by Uefa in 2013. And like Georgia, Gibraltar provided six points on the journey to France, with Ireland winning 7-0 at home and 4-0 away–Robbie Keane helping himself to a hat-trick and then a brace. JulioCés ar Rib as’ ss idea re currently ranked 194th in the world, and they were the 55th seed out of the 55 sides who are bidding for Euros qualification. Despite being ranked bottom they enjoyed a good Nations League campaign, beating Armenia 1-0 at home and Liechtenstein 2-1 away–avoiding bottom spot in their Division Four group. However, if the Republic of Ireland are to have any hopes of making it to Euro 2020 then two goal-difference boo sting victories over Gibraltar areamust.