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Ranking all Ireland's past major tournament draws in order of difficulty

The Boys in Green have been handed some tricky challenges in previous competitions.

Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

N.B. 5 = least difficult 1 = most difficult

5. World Cup 2002

Germany

Cameroon

Saudi Arabia

BY NO MEANS an easy group, Germany — despite being one of their weaker sides in recent years — reached the final. Saudi Arabia were the tournament whipping boys, but Cameroon had a decent side with well-respected players like Lauren, Geremi and Samuel Eto’o in their team.

4. USA 94

Italy 

Norway 

Mexico

A tricky draw made easier by the potential for three teams to qualify. Italy had a team filled with some of the world’s best players at the time, while both Mexico and Norway had some excellent players in their side.

3. Italia 90

Holland

England 

Egypt

The only time Ireland have not been paired with an eventual finalist at a major tournament group stage, Italia 90 was still not a favourable draw. England arguably haven’t had a better side since, while it was a Holland team that had won Euro 88 two years previously. Even Egypt turned out to be tricky opposition.

2. Euro 88

Holland

Soviet Union

England

This where it starts getting really tough — Ireland were paired with the two eventual finalists and a strong England team. And amazingly, Jack Charlton’s side came agonisingly close to qualifying, with a fortuitous Wim Kieft goal ultimately proving their undoing.

1. Euro 2012

Spain

Italy

Croatia

One of the best Spain teams ever, an Italian side that went on to reach the final and a classy Croatian outfit — Ireland really couldn’t have asked for a much tougher Euro 2012 draw and will be hoping to avoid a similar level of difficulty this time around.

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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