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Crawford braced for 'tough start' as Ireland U21 fixtures are confirmed

The bid to qualify for the 2023 European Championships will begin with two away games in September.

Ireland U21 manager Jim Crawford.
Ireland U21 manager Jim Crawford.
Image: Matteo Ciambelli/INPHO

THE REPUBLIC OF Ireland U21s will kick off their European Championship qualifying campaign with a double-header of away games against Bosnia & Herzegovina and Luxembourg in September.

The Group F fixtures were confirmed today, with Ireland’s bid to reach the 2023 tournament – which will be co-hosted by Romania and Georgia – scheduled to conclude with a potentially decisive fixture in Italy in June of next year.

Manager Jim Crawford has revealed that he hopes to prepare his team for the qualifiers by participating in this summer’s Toulon Tournament, while efforts are also being made to arrange a friendly next month.

For the second successive campaign, Ireland will be up against Italy, Sweden and Luxembourg. The group also consists of Bosnia & Herzegovina and Montenegro.

“It will be a tough start away at Bosnia & Herzegovina, but they are playing in the March and June windows so it gives us a chance to see them,” said Crawford. “They are a team we haven’t played before at U21 level but, make no mistake, they always have competitive teams.

“After Bosnia we travel to Luxembourg, and while we got a good look at them last year, they had moments in the game where they looked dangerous so we must prepare for the away and home leg of those games.

“Montenegro will be the second game in the October window and it doesn’t need me to say just how tough of a place it is to go.”

Crawford is hoping that spectators will be permitted to return to stadiums when Ireland play back-to-back home games against Italy and Sweden in November. 

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“It was certainly in our thinking to have Italy and Sweden in Ireland when the turnstiles could be open and it would be a brilliant opportunity for the Irish public to see this talented group of players take on two of the top teams in the world,” he said. “It would be a big boost for the players to have fans there.”

Crawford added that he’s “very keen” on taking his side to June’s Toulon Tournament, a competition where they reached the semi-finals under Stephen Kenny two years ago The Ireland boss said: “I was involved with it in 2019 and I saw the benefits of it and the growth of players during the competition.

“There were some players who used that tournament to really kick on their careers at club level, and with us playing three qualifying games the following June, it’s an excellent chance to prepare for three games in quick succession.” 

Fixtures and dates for Ireland’s U21 European Championship qualifiers are subject to change, with venues and kick-off times to be confirmed.

  • 3 September, 2021 | Bosnia & Herzegovina v Republic of Ireland 
  • 7 September, 2021 | Luxembourg v Republic of Ireland
  • 8 October, 2021 | Republic of Ireland v Luxembourg
  • 12 October, 2021 | Montenegro v Republic of Ireland
  • 12 November 2021 | Republic of Ireland v Italy
  • 16 November, 2021 | Republic of Ireland v Sweden
  • 29 March, 2022 | Sweden v Republic of Ireland
  • 3 June, 2022 | Republic Ireland v Bosnia & Herzegovina
  • 6 June, 2022 | Republic of Ireland v Montenegro
  • 14 June, 2022 | Italy v Republic of Ireland 

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Paul Dollery

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