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Ireland at Euro 2016 Finals
The Republic of Ireland qualified for consecutive Euro finals when they beat Bosnia Herzegovina 3-1 in the Euro 2016 play-off matches. During the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign Ireland had some poor results and some very good results - particularly a draw and a win over World Champions Germany. The final rounds of matches saw Ireland edge Scotland out of third place to qualify for the play-offs.
Although the Bosnians were ranked ahead of Ireland in the FIFA rankings at the time, the Irish had a relatively smooth passage through the play-off matches. Robbie Brady's goal in the fog-bound stadium in Zenica gave the Irish the advantage of a precious away goal as the match ended in a 1-1 draw.
A brace of goals from Jonathan Walters in the return leg at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin a few days later ensured that the Republic of Ireland qualified for a second Euro championsip finals in succession.
It had been generally accepted that Ireland had been been relatively lucky to draw Bosnia and Herzegovina in the play-offs but that luck deserted the Irish when the draw for the Euro 2016 finals was made in at the Palais des Congrès de la Porte Maillot in Paris on Saturday 12 December 2015. Ireland was in Pot 4 of four in the draw.
Euro 2016 Final Draw
The draw was made amid great fanfare in the French capital. The Irish were drawn in Group E. Unfortunately for Ireland the top seed in Group E was Belgium. For the second tournament in a row Ireland had drawn the No.1 ranked team in the World (at the time of the draw). To compound matters Italy was added to the group to be folowed by Sweden.
As the Irish football manager, Martin O'Neill commented, "The draw couldn't have been any tougher.". The sequence of matches was also determined by the draw process and Ireland's group matches were as follows:
For many football pundits and Irish fans the opening match against Sweden in Paris would determine whether Ireland could progress to the knockout stages of Euro 2016. A win in this match would set the Irish up for a heroic campaign but a loss would make it very difficult to make it out of the group.
However with an expanded number of teams, 24, and just eight teams being eliminated at the group stages it could be possible to progress to the next round with just three points. Therefore one win or even three draws could be enough to send the Irish through to the next round.
At the time of the Euro 2016 Finals draw the following were the vital statistics of Ireland's (FIFA World Ranking 31) opponents in Group E:
As the Euro 2016 finals kicked off the FIFA World rankings for the teams in Group E were as follows:
Ireland's Performance at Euro 2016
Ireland's participation at the the Euro 2016 finals began with a very encouraging performance against the lowest ranked team in Group E, Sweden. The Irish began very brightly and could have held a three goal lead at half time. Despite this the break-through goal came in the second half as Wes Hoolahan's sumptuous half volley found the back of the Swedish net.
Unfortunately for the Irish they couldn't hold out and a Zlatan Ibrahimovich cross was turned into his own net by centre-half Ciaran Clark. The match ended in a 1-1 draw and therefore the Irish avoided defeat however based upon the performance the general consensus was that it was two points dropped. With the number two and 12 FIFA World ranked teams yet to be played in the group the odds were stacked against the Irish.
Euro 2016 Group E Irish Match Statistics
Euro 2016 Group E Final Table
Player Stats at Euro 2016
* Ciaran Clarke scored an own goal in the match against Sweden.
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