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Halfway through the campaign, where does last night's draw leave Ireland in Group D?

France 2016 seems a long way off but the Boys in Green are just about still in the hunt.

There's a Long way still to go.
There's a Long way still to go.
Image: Niall Carson

WHEN ALL IS said and done, Martin O’Neill will no doubt look back on last night’s result as a decisive one in the Euro 2016 Qualifying campaign.

Whether it’s regarded as a point gained or a missed opportunity remains to be seen but Shane Long’s injury-time leveller keeps the Boys in Green in the hunt in Group D.

The striker’s invaluable intervention, in the first minute of added time, rescued a point for the hosts and ensured Ireland avoided back-to-back reversals in what’s turning out to be a competitive and extremely tight group.

But now that we’re halfway through the campaign, where does the 1-1 draw with Poland leave Ireland on the road to France?

The current state of play

Five games played, five to go and all to play for, just.

screenshot.1427712941.28691 Source: www.uefa.com

Poland’s Aviva Stadium point ensures they remain top of the pile with three wins and two draws from their opening set of fixtures. Adam Nawałka’s side are in a strong position but they still face trips to Germany and Hampden Park during the run-in.

As expected, both Germany and Gordan Strachan’s Scotland won at the weekend and although the world champions are a point behind their near neighbours, it would be no surprise to see Jogi Low’s side finish as group winners.

If Poland and Germany finish as the top two, that would leave Ireland and Scotland in a shoot-out for third spot.

As it stands, Ireland find themselves adrift from the leading pack in fourth having collected a point from their last two outings but all is not lost. As we’ll go onto explain below, Ireland’s next three games are very winnable but even still nine more points may not be enough.

It’s safe to assume Georgia and Gibraltar are out of the running but the former may still play a significant role in how the group pans out if they can up their game in the second-half of the campaign.

What is the qualification criteria?

Uefa’s decision to expand the European Championships to 24 teams had, on paper anyway, cleared Ireland’s path for qualification as second seeds.

With eight qualifying groups of six teams and one group of five, the top two from each automatically qualify for France 2016.

The best third-placed team also qualifies but any points collected against the team that brings up the rear  - most likely Gibraltar in this case – will be discounted. At the minute, Scotland are the best placed team currently occupying third position across the nine groups with seven points.

Martin O'Neill Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

The other eight countries that finish third will get another shot at qualification but will be at the mercy of a two-legged play-off with potential opponents including Netherlands or Belgium.

In 2011, Giovanni Trapattoni guided the Boys in Green through a play-off with Estonia to advance to Poland/Ukraine.

The remaining fixtures

With Georgia and Gibraltar struggling to make an impression, a mini-league between the top four has developed. Assuming results against the bottom two go as expected, the final standings in Group D will be determined by the games between those vying for qualification.

As mentioned previously, the next phase of this campaign will shape Ireland’s Euro 2016 destiny.

Next-up, the Scots visit Dublin on 13 June before a September double-header against Gibraltar and then Georgia. Anything less than nine points would all but end Irish interest with two games remaining.

Those final outings come against Germany at home and Poland in Warsaw. But as John Giles would say, we just need to take each game on its merits (and hope our good friends in Georgia can do us a few favours along the way).

  • Ireland v Scotland – 13 June, 5pm
  • Gibraltar v Ireland – 4 September, 7.45pm
  • Ireland v Georgia  - 7 September, 7.45pm
  • Ireland v Germany – 8 October, 7.45pm
  • Poland v Ireland – 11 October, 7.45pm

All the remaining fixtures for Group D can be found here.

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About the author:

Ryan Bailey

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