Euro 2016 Group E

Republic of Ireland

13 June - Sweden (5pm GMT, Stade de France, Saint-Denis)
18 June - Belgium (2pm GMT, Stade de Bordeaux, Bordeaux)
22 June - Italy (8pm GMT, Stade Pierre-Mauroy, Lille)

Ireland will be relying on a watertight defensive unit to improve on their dismal outing four years ago after being drawn in Euro 2016’s group of death, writes Alasdair Mackenzie.

Irish look to fire over flair

Ireland achieved back-to-back European Championship qualifications for the first time, but they’ll be hoping for an improved performance on four years ago, when they lost every match. Their chances of an improvement will depend on a continuation of their formidable defensive record. Ireland conceded just seven times in 10 qualifying games, despite facing world champions Germany and Poland’s prolific Robert Lewandowski.

Coach: Martin O’Neill — The former Celtic and Aston Villa boss took over from Giovanni Trapattoni in 2013 and has masterminded a run of only two defeats in 18 matches.

Preferred XI: Randolph; Coleman, O’Shea, Keogh, Brady; Hoolahan, McCarthy, Whelan, Hendrick; Walters, Long

A compact shape with two banks of four will be hard for opponents to penetrate. The team has an experienced spine, while full-backs Seamus Coleman and Robbie Brady provide an extra attacking threat.

Look out for: Defensive solidity. O’Neill has drilled his team into a compact unit that has proven difficult to break down. This is a team lacking in superstars, but the numbers do the talking for them – Ireland’s recent 2-2 friendly draw with Slovakia was only the second time since June 2014 that they conceded more than once.

Did you know?

  • This is the first time in Ireland’s history that they’ve qualified for two European Championships in a row.
  • Ireland conceded seven goals in qualifying – fewer than both Germany and Poland above them.
  • Robbie Keane is set to be a part of the Irish squad and already holds national records for most appearances (143) and most goals (67).

France versus…

…Sweden P10 W3 D2 L5 F13 A16
…Belgium P14 W4 D5 L5 F24 A25
…Italy P14 W2 D3 L9 F10 A22

Stats

Population: 4.6m
Nickname: The Boys in Green, The Green Army
Calcio fans might remember... Liam Brady - Juventus (1980-82), Sampdoria (1982-84), Inter (1984-86), Ascoli (1986-87)
Top Division: League of Ireland Premier Division
FIFA World Ranking: 31
International honours: None
Most capped player: Robbie Keane (143)
Leading international scorer: Robbie Keane (67)
Ireland at the European Championships:

1960 - Did not qualify
1964 - Did not qualify
1968 - Did not qualify
1972 - Did not qualify
1976 - Did not qualify
1980 - Did not qualify
1984 - Did not qualify
1988 – Group stage
1992 - Did not qualify
1996 - Did not qualify
2000 - Did not qualify
2004 - Did not qualify
2008 - Did not qualify
2012 – Group stage

How they got to Euro 2016: Ireland finished third in qualifying Group D behind Germany and Poland, before beating Bosnia-Herzegovina 3-1 on aggregate in the playoff round.