# Scouting Report
A guide to Ireland's daunting Euro 2024 qualifier opponents
We take a closer look at Ireland’s qualifier opponents.

THERE WAS A straightforward creed being muttered among the delegates after the early stages of today’s Euro 2024 qualifier draw in Frankfurt. 

Group B or Not Group B?

Netherlands and France were in there, so Not Group B was the place to be.

And naturally Ireland were then plonked right into it when Jurgen Klinsmann unfolded their name in the draw. They were swiftly joined by Greece and Gibraltar, meaning Ireland are housed in a group with three former champions. 

With seedings based on the recent Nations League campaign, France’s poor results saw them bumped down to the status of second seeds, though the second seeds nobody wanted. 

Only the top two in each group qualify for the Championships in Germany, and Stephen Kenny admitted afterwards that Ireland will need to “do something extraordinary” to do that. The FAI’s top brass shared Kenny’s sentiments on the difficulty of the draw, though there is a sliver lining to the cloud. It’s expected that the impending Dublin arrivals of the likes of Virgil van Dijk and Kylian Mbappe should boost season ticket sales, which are set to launch next week. The increased exposure may also help the FAI finally find a shirt sponsor for the team, too. 

Let’s take a closer look at Ireland’s opponents. 

imago-20220925 Imago / PA Images Virgil van Dijk. Imago / PA Images / PA Images


Manager: Louis Van Gaal is in charge for the World Cup in Qatar, but will be replaced by Ronald Koeman for the Euro 2024 qualifying campaign. 

Star Player: Virgil van Dijk is showing signs of creaking but remains one of the best defenders in the world. 

How do they play? It remains to be seen how Koeman sets the team up when he takes the reins, but Van Gaal has gone away from the principles of Johan Cruyff and set his side up in a 3-4-3. The Dutch have an embarrassment of defensive riches – Van Dijk can be partnered by any of Matthijs De Ligt, Stefan de Vrij, Nathan Ake, Daley Blind, and Julian Timber – with Frenkie de Jong the key midfielder. They are shorter in quality up front but that doesn’t mean they lack it. Memphis Depay and Steven Bergwijn will be familiar to Premier League fans, while 23-year-old PSV striker Cody Gakpo is one of Europe’s more coveted talents. 

Are they going to the World Cup? Yep – they topped their qualifying group ahead of Turkey and Norway. They will face Ecuador, Senegal, and hosts Qatar in the group phase of the tournament. 

How was their Nations League campaign? It was excellent. They topped that group too, ahead of Belgium, Poland, and Wales with the best record across all of League A. They have been drawn in a five-team group to allow them compete in the Nations League semi-finals. 

imago-20220922 Imago / PA Images Kylian Mbappe. Imago / PA Images / PA Images


Manager: Didier Deschamps remains in situ, though there is still some uncertainty as to whether he will carry on to the Euro 2024 campaign. Zinedine Zidane is waiting in the wings. 

Star player: Kylian Mbappe is vying with Erling Haaland to be the defining player of his generation. It’s not a great result for Ireland given he was lurking in a pot two that also featured Israel and Bosnia. 

How do they play? Deschamps has been switching between a 4-4-2 and a 3-4-1-2 of late. Either system pairs Mbappe with Karim Benzema up front, which is a fairly terrifying prospect. The latter system was most favoured in the World Cup qualifying campaign, with this roughly their first-choice XI: Hugo Lloris; Jules Kounde, Raphael Varane, Dayot Upamecano; Benjamin Pavard; N’Golo Kante, Paul Pogba; Lucas Digne; Antoine Griezmann; Kylian Mbappe, Karim Benzema. Pogba’s witchdoctor would want to step up their work. 

Are they going to the World Cup? Yes, they topped their qualifying group ahead of Ukraine, Bosnia, and Finland. They are in Group D in Qatar, facing Denmark, Australia, and Tunisia. 

How was their Nations League campaign? Poor, hence why we’ve managed to land them as second seeds. They finished third in their group behind Croatia and Denmark. 

northern-ireland-v-greece-uefa-nations-league-group-2-windsor-park PA Gus Poyet. PA


Manager: Former Chelsea and Spurs midfielder Gus Poyet is in charge now, appointed in February of this year. 

Star Player: Greece were light on superstars even in their glory year of 2004. Liverpool left-back Kostas Tsmikas is the most recognisable name these days. 

How do they play? Poyet has favoured a 4-3-3 thus far, changing from the back three/five they played under their previous manager. Celtic striker Georgios Giakoumakis has occasionally led the line but has not always been first-choice, vying for that role with Utrecht forward Anastasios Douvikas. 

Are they going to the World Cup? No. They finished third in their group behind Spain and Sweden, though did earn a 1-1 draw away to Spain at the start of the campaign. 

How was their Nations League campaign? It was very good. They topped a League C group featuring Kosovo, Northern Ireland, and Cyprus. That earned them promotion and a guarantee of a play-off, somewhat cushioning the blow of this draw. 

imago-20210916 Imago / PA Images A view of Gibraltar's Victoria Stadium. Imago / PA Images / PA Images


Manager: Like Greece, Gibraltar are coached by a Uruguayan, Julio César Ribas. He was in charge when Ireland last played Gibraltar in Euro 2020 qualifying. 

Star player: A bit of a contradiction in terms. Winger Liam Walker spent a season at Blackburn Rovers 10 years ago. Midfielder Nicholas Pozo is in the Cadiz academy and is only 17, but was first capped at senior level this year. 

How do they play? They occasionally switch to a back four against fellow, lowly-ranked nations, but it’s usually an Alamoesque 5-4-1. 

Are they going to the World Cup? You may be surprised to hear this, but no. They finished bottom of a group featuring the Dutch along with Turkey, Norway, Montenegro, and Latvia. They lost every game, scoring four goals and conceding 43 goals. 

How was their Nations League campaign? Gibraltar were in League C of the most recent edition of the tournament, but are heading for the play-offs to avoid relegation back down to League D. They finished bottom of a group featuring Georgia, Bulgaria and North Macedonia with the league’s worst record. 

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