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Ranking Ireland's possible Euro 2016 play-off opponents

Most Ireland fans will be keeping their fingers crossed for a two-legged tie with Hungary.

NOW THAT WE know the four teams Ireland can be paired with in this Sunday’s Euro 2016 play-off draw in Nyon (10.15am Irish time), let’s take a closer look at the possible opponents.

The Boys in Green will be in the unseeded pot alongside Denmark, Norway and Slovenia, meaning they can meet Ukraine, Sweden, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Hungary in the two-legged play-off, which takes place on 12/13/14 and 15/16/16 November.

Ukraine

Macedonia Ukraine Euro Soccer Ukraine and Dynamo Kiev winger Andriy Yarmolenko (right). Source: AP/Press Association Images

In Group C alongside reigning champions Spain as well as Slovakia, Belarus, Luxembourg and Macedonia, second seeds Ukraine claimed third place with six wins, one draw and three defeats.

The losses, which came against Spain (2) and Slovakia, all finished 1-0 and Mykhailo Fomenko’s men only conceded four goals over the entire campaign.

They possess a number of talented players including reported Chelsea target Andriy Yarmolenko and Sevilla’s Yevhen Konoplyanka and, when you consider the daunting trip to Kiev, they would likely pose the most difficult test for Ireland.

Recent past meetings: They have never met before.

Ukraine Group

Sweden

Montenegro Sweden Euro Soccer Sweden's talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Source: AP/Press Association Images

The Swedes have been branded a one-man team in the past, and they have been as reliant on Zlatan Ibrahimovic as ever over the past year.

Eight goals and one assist in eight appearances by the PSG striker meant he had a hand in over half of their 15 goals. Sweden were the only team to take points off surprise group winners Austria — drawing 1-1 in the opening game in Vienna.

They went on to win five, draw three and lose two games and would prove tough opponents for Ireland.

Recent past meetings: Ireland 1-2 Sweden (6 September 2013, WC qualifier), Sweden 0-0 Ireland (22 March 2013, WC qualifier).

Sweden group

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Bosnia & Herzegovina

Bosnia Andorra Edin Dzeko scored seven goals in as many games. Source: AP/Press Association Images

Bosnia & Herzegovina, Israel and Cyrpus all went into last night’s final group fixtures in the hope of claiming third place in Group B, and a 3-2 victory in Nicosia saw Mehmed Bazdarevic’s side secure the play-off spot.

After a disastrous start to the campaign, losing 2-1 at home to the Cypriots on Matchday 1, Bosnia held group winners Belgium to a draw while taking four points off runners-up Wales.

Manchester City striker Edin Dzeko, on loan in Serie A this season, was their top scorer in qualifying with seven goals, and they’ve also got Roma midfielder Miralem Pjanic, Everton’s Muhamed Besic and Chelsea back-up goalkeeper Asmir Begovic in their ranks.

Recent past meetings: Ireland 1-0 Bosnia & Herzegovina (26 May, 2012, friendly).

Bosnia play-off

Hungary

Soccer - UEFA European Championship Qualifying - Group F - Northern Ireland v Hungary - Windsor Park Hungary captain Balazs Dzsudzsak. Source: PA Wire/PA Images

While Michael O’Neill’s Northern Ireland qualified for their first major tournament since 1986 as Group F winners, Hungary clinched a berth in the play-offs behind Romania.

Had it not been for Turkey’s late winner against Iceland last night, Hungary would have been handed an automatic qualification place as the best ranked third-placed team.

As it stands, the nation ranked 33rd in the world by Fifa appear to be the most attractive proposition for Ireland. They managed one point from two matches against Northern Ireland and lost 4-3 to bottom side Greece over the weekend.

Recent past meetings: Hungary 0-0 Ireland (4 June 2012, friendly).

Hungary group

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About the author:

Ben Blake

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