A guide to Ireland’s formidable opponents for Euro 2024 qualifiers

THERE WAS A simple creed whispered among delegates after the early stages of today’s Euro 2024 qualifying draw in Frankfurt.

Group B or not Group B?

The Netherlands and France were there, so Group B was not the place to be.

And naturally Ireland were then thrown into it when Jurgen Klinsmann revealed his name in the draw. They were soon joined by Greece and Gibraltar, meaning Ireland are housed in a group with three former champions.

With seeds based on the recent Nations League campaign, France’s poor results saw them upgrade to second seed status, although no one wanted the second seed.

Only the top two from each group qualify for the championships in Germany, and Stephen Kenny admitted afterwards that Ireland will have to “do something extraordinary” to achieve this. Senior FAI brass shared Kenny’s sentiments on the difficulty of the draw, although there was a ribbon on the cloud. The imminent arrivals in Dublin of Virgil van Dijk and Kylian Mbappe are expected to boost season ticket sales, which are set to launch next week. The increased exposure may also help the FAI finally find a shirt sponsor for the team.

Let’s take a closer look at Ireland’s opponents.


Virgil van Dijk.

Source: Imago Images/PA


Administrator: Louis Van Gaal is in charge of the World Cup in Qatar but will be replaced by Ronald Koeman for the Euro 2024 qualifying campaign.

Star player: Virgil van Dijk is showing signs of cringing but remains one of the best defenders in the world.

How do they play? It remains to be seen how Koeman sets up the team when he takes the reins, but Van Gaal has strayed from Johan Cruyff’s principles and put his team in a 3-4-3. The Dutch have an embarrassment of defensive riches – Van Dijk can be paired with any of Matthijs De Ligt, Stefan de Vrij, Nathan Ake, Daley Blind and Julian Timber – with Frenkie de Jong the key midfielder. They are shorter in quality in the front, but that doesn’t mean they lack it. Memphis Depay and Steven Bergwijn will be familiar to Premier League fans, while 23-year-old PSV striker Cody Gakpo is one of Europe’s most coveted talents.

Are they going to the World Cup? Yes, they topped their qualifying group ahead of Turkey and Norway. They will face Ecuador, Senegal and host country Qatar in the group stage of the tournament.

How was their Nations League campaign? It was excellent. They also topped that group, ahead of Belgium, Poland and Wales with the best record in all of League A. They were drawn into a five-team group to qualify for the semi-finals of the League of Nations.


Kylian Mbappe.

Source: Imago Images/PA


Administrator: Didier Deschamps remains behind, although there is still some uncertainty over his continuation of the Euro 2024 campaign. Zinedine Zidane is waiting in the wings.

Star Player: Kylian Mbappe rivals Erling Haaland to be the defining player of his generation. Not a good result for Ireland given they were hiding in a pot two that also included Israel and Bosnia.

How do they play? Deschamps has been switching between a 4-4-2 and a 3-4-1-2 lately. Either system pairs Mbappe with Karim Benzema up front which is a pretty terrifying prospect. The latter system was most favored during the World Cup qualifying campaign, with just about their first-choice XI: Hugo Lloris; Jules Koundé, Raphaël Varane, Dayot Upamecano; Benjamin Pavard; N’Golo Kante, Paul Pogba; Lucas Worthy; Antoine Griezmann; Kylian Mbappe, Karim Benzema. Pogba’s wizard would like to step up his work.

Are they going to the World Cup? Yes, they topped their qualifying group ahead of Ukraine, Bosnia and Finland. They are in Group D in Qatar, facing Denmark, Australia and Tunisia.

How was their Nations League campaign? Poor, that’s why we managed to land them as the second seed. They finished third in their group behind Croatia and Denmark.


Gus Poyet.

Source: AP


Administrator: Former Chelsea and Spurs midfielder Gus Poyet is now in charge, appointed in February this year.

Star player: Greece were light on superstars even in their glory year of 2004. Liverpool left-back Kostas Tsmikas is the most recognizable name these days.

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How do they play? Poyet has favored a 4-3-3 so far, moving up from the back three/five they played under their former manager. Celtic striker Georgios Giakoumakis has sometimes led the line but hasn’t always been the first choice, vying for the role with Utrecht striker Anastasios Douvikas.

Are they going to the World Cup? No. They finished third in their group behind Spain and Sweden, but were drawn 1-1 with Spain early in the campaign.

How was their Nations League campaign? It was really good. They topped a League C group comprising Kosovo, Northern Ireland and Cyprus. This earned them promotion and a guaranteed play-off, cushioning the blow of that draw somewhat.


A view of Gibraltar’s Victoria Stadium.

Source: Imago Images/PA


Administrator: Like Greece, Gibraltar is coached by an Uruguayan, Julio César Ribas. He was in charge when Ireland last played Gibraltar in the Euro 2020 qualifiers.

Star player: A bit of a contradiction in terms. Winger Liam Walker spent a season at Blackburn Rovers 10 years ago. Midfielder Nicholas Pozo is in the Cadiz academy and is only 17 years old, but was selected for the first time at senior level this year.

How do they play? They sometimes switch to a back four against other lower-tier nations, but it’s usually an Alamoesque 5-4-1.

Are they going to the World Cup? You might be surprised to hear that, but no. They finished bottom of a group consisting of the Dutch with Turkey, Norway, Montenegro and Latvia. They lost every game, scoring four goals and conceding 43 goals.

How was their Nations League campaign? Gibraltar were in League C in the last edition of the tournament, but head to the play-offs to avoid relegation to League D. They finished bottom of a group including Georgia, Bulgaria and North Macedonia with the worst record in the league.

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