Jack Keegan discusses a tough draw for the boys in green.
Ireland will have France, the Netherlands, Greece and Gibraltar in their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign. This is arguably the worst outcome for Stephen Kenny's men.
To reach Euro 2024, the Boys in Green must finish in the top two of the group to qualify automatically. If not, they will hope and pray that their Nations League ranking will be enough to put them into the playoffs for the tournament.
The French, as world champions, were the highest-ranked side in the second pot of the draw. The Dutch were drawn from pot one. The Greeks were the highest-ranked side in pot four, while Gibraltar were the lowest-ranked side in pot five.
Apart from Gibraltar, each side boasts a tremendous amount of talent within their ranks. The French will make use of the likes of Kylian Mbappé, Paul Pogba and William Saliba, the Dutch will have Memphis Depay, Frenkie de Jong and Virgil Van Dijk and finally, the Greeks, coached by Gus Poyet, will have players such as the former Arsenal centre-half Konstantinos Mavropanos and Hull City winger Dimitrios Pelkas.
There was a momentary glimmer of hope, a few hours after the draw concluded, as UEFA told the FAI and Stephen Kenny to disregard their qualifying fixture list as the governing body noticed a number of “issues with the calendar”. Every Irish soccer fan collectively breathed a sigh of relief. The rug was soon pulled out from under the FAI, however, as it has since been confirmed that Ireland's matches will take place as originally scheduled.
This nightmarish draw is the result of Ireland's mixed Nations League campaign. The worst is what could have been. If the Boys in Green had held on to their leads against Scotland and Ukraine, they would have been the best side that finished in second place. That title went to Finland, who are now in a qualifying group with Denmark, Slovenia, Kazakhstan, Northern Ireland and San Marino.
On the bright side, the FAI will have an uptick in season ticket sales as punters far and wide will come to Lansdowne Road to see the very best world football has to offer. Unfortunately, they may not be wearing green.