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Another Wales reunion ahead as Ireland learn Nations League opponents

These will be Stephen Kenny’s first competitive games in charge of the senior team.
Mar 3rd 2020, 5:35 PM 29,631 29

Updated Mar 3rd 2020, 10:20 PM

THE REPUBLIC OF Ireland will face Bulgaria, Finland, and Wales in the 2020/2021 edition of the Uefa Nations League.

uefa-nations-league-202021-draw-amsterdam The scene in Amsterdam ahead of the Nations League draw. Source: Adam Davy

These will be Stephen Kenny’s first games in charge of the Irish senior team, and he will kick off away to Bulgaria on 3 September. That is followed three days later by the visit of Finland to Dublin. Ireland then host Wales on 10 October before travelling to Finland on 13 October, while the campaign concludes with a trip to Wales on 13 November and a final-day home tie with Bulgaria on 16 November. 

Mick McCarthy attended today’s draw in Amsterdam in spite of the fact he won’t actually be in charge for these games: Uefa stipulate that the present senior team manager must attend the draw.

Wales were Ireland’s opponents in the previous edition of the competition, with a 4-1 hammering in Cardiff presaging a 1-0 defeat in Dublin. This tournament will mark the sides’ sixth meeting in three years. 

Bulgaria, meanwhile, were beaten 3-1 in an international friendly at the Aviva Stadium in September, while McCarthy was also in charge for Ireland’s last game with Finland: a 3-0 friendly win in Helskini back in August 2002. 

The four winners of each group will be promoted to League A, while the bottom-placed side in each group will be relegated to League C. 

Although Ireland were supposed to be relegated to the third tier having finished bottom of their group under Martin O’Neill, a rejigging of the format meant an expansion of Leagues, A, B, and C and handed Ireland a reprieve. 

This edition of the tournament offers a backdoor to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. The top side in each group of the standard World Cup qualifying campaign will qualify automatically for the competition.

The runner-up in each group go the 12-team play-offs, with the remaining two spots fulfilled by the two highest-ranked group winners across the Nations League who do not finish in the top two of their World Cup qualifying group. These play-offs will consist of three groups of four teams, needing to navigate a semi-final and final to earn their place in Qatar.

Ireland will need to top their group to be in contention for this backdoor route. 

These Nations League games will be Stephen Kenny’s first competitive games in charge of the senior team, with the first two games to be played in September. A further double-header of games will take place in October and November, and the finals tournament will take place in June 2021, should Ireland top their group. 

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uefa-nations-league-202021-draw-amsterdam Mick McCarthy arrives for today's draw. Source: Adam Davy

Northern Ireland are also in League B, and have been drawn with Norway, Austria, and Romania. Scotland have been drawn with our play-off opponents Slovakia, along with Israel and Czech Republic. 

Elsewhere, our old friends Denmark have been promoted to League A and have been drawn with England, Iceland and Belgium. 

The full draw can be found here. 

First published today at 17.49

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Gavin Cooney


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