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Here's why our northern neighbours did the Republic of Ireland a huge favour today

A much clearer picture is emerging as the group stage begins to wrap up.

Image: Mike Egerton/PA Wire/Press Association Images

WITH A CRUNCH game ahead on Wednesday, the Republic of Ireland need all the help they can get.

Thankfully, our northern neighbours stepped up to the plate earlier today and delivered.

By suffering a 1-0 defeat to Germany in Paris, Michael O’Neill’s side finish the group stage in third place on three points – just short of the magic number for certain teams: four.

Firstly, the result means Slovakia are confirmed in the knockout stages as one of the best third-placed sides.

Secondly, it’s now guaranteed that if Ireland beat Italy in Lille tomorrow evening, they will make it through to the round of 16 with four points from their three games.

Republic of Ireland v Belgium - UEFA Euro 2016 - Group E - Stade de Bordeaux Source: Hassan Ammar

Anything less than a victory will not do.

In theory, the Republic of Ireland could still finish second but it’s a long-shot.

For that to happen, they’ll need to beat Italy and score at least two more goals than Sweden get against Belgium.

Potentially, Ireland could be level on points, goal difference and goals scored as Sweden.

If that’s the case, the tie-breaker goes to the teams’ fair play record and currently Ireland have racked up three disciplinary points compared to Sweden’s two.

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As it happened: Northern Ireland v Germany, Euro 2016

Northern Ireland still in the race for knockout place despite narrow defeat to Germany

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