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Ireland U21 Qualifying Permutations & Predictions As Crawford's Side Chase History

Ireland U21 Qualifying Permutations & Predictions As Crawford's Side Chase History
By Gary Connaughton
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While the upcoming start of the Republic of Ireland's UEFA Nations League campaign has dominated the headlines in recent days, it has slipped somewhat under the radar that the U21 side could be on the verge of making history.

Jim Crawford's side face into three vital European Championship qualifiers over the next two weeks, with the goal of qualifying for the tournament for the first time still very much a possibility.

As we head into the closing stages of the group, here's how the table is stacking up.

Ireland currently sit in third place, having a game in hand on Sweden above them. With a fixture against the Italians still to come, they still have an outside chance of topping the group.

Finishing first would mean a guaranteed place in next summers finals in Romania and Georgia. Coming second would guarantee a play-off, although one group runner-up will also qualify automatically for the tournament.

Ahead of the trio of fixtures, here's how things are looking for Ireland.

June 2nd & 3rd

Sweden travel to take on Luxembourg later this evening, a game they will be expected to win having defeated the same opposition 6-0 earlier in the competition. That would put them four points ahead of Ireland, although Jim Crawford's side will have two games in hand.


Ireland host Bosnia & Herzegovina at Tallaght Stadium tomorrow night in what is sure to be a trick fixture. However, the Boys in Green did win the away fixture 2-0 in September.

A repeat of that result would put them in a strong position.

Expected table

  1. Italy - 17 points
  2. Sweden - 17 points
  3. Ireland - 16 points

This would be a decent position for Ireland, considering they would have a game in hand on Sweden.


June 6th

Ireland will have a quick turnaround for their next game, hosting Montenegro on Monday afternoon. While their position in the group would suggest that Ireland should get a victory, they did lose 2-1 to the same opposition in October.


Despite this, you would expect them to win this fixture at home.

Italy will travel to Luxembourg on the same day, where you would expect a comfortable victory for the group leaders.

Expected table

  1. Italy - 20 points
  2. Ireland - 19 points
  3. Sweden - 17 points

In this scenario, Ireland would move two points ahead of Sweden having played the same number of games. The Italians would be on the verge of qualification having played a game less than Ireland and two fewer than Sweden.


June 9th


While Ireland will not play on this date, it is set to be the decisive one in their qualification quest.


Sweden will host Italy, in what will be the host's final fixture of the group. Should results go as expected, they will need a win in order to leapfrog Ireland for second place in the group. Meanwhile, a victory for the Italians would be enough to guarantee top spot.

The two sides drew earlier in the campaign and it wouldn't be a surprise to see that result repeated on this occasion.

Expected table

  1. Italy - 21 points
  2. Ireland - 19 points
  3. Sweden - 18 points (eliminated)

Ireland would certainly take this scenario if it was offered to them now. Having beaten Sweden twice in the group, they also hold the head-to-head advantage should the two sides finish level on points.


June 14th

If Italy fail to beat Sweden and Ireland win their next two games, top spot will all come down to this game.

Ireland will need a victory when they travel to Italy in order to top the group, and while that is a very difficult task, it is not outside of the realms of possibility.

In saying that, you would expect the Italians to eke out at least a draw should qualification hang in the balance. In any case, they will be favourites.

Expected final table

  1. Italy - 24 points (Q)
  2. Ireland - 19 points (p)
  3. Sweden - 18 points


The play-offs

Unfortunately for Ireland, it is highly likely that their points tally will not be enough to automatically secure a place in the tournament as the best second placed side.

Should they finish second, they would likely have somewhere around 14/15 points (when results against bottom placed side in the group are removed). The Netherlands, who currently are the top ranked second placed team, already have 14 points with two games left to play. A number of other teams are also likely to better the Irish tally.

In such a scenario, Ireland would then face into a play-off.

The final places in the tournament will be decided via four two-legged ties, with the winner of each advancing to next year's finals. Those games are likely to take place in September.



Ireland go into this window knowing that wins over Bosnia & Herzegovina and Montenegro over their next two games will be enough to secure second place, as long as Sweden do not beat Italy in their fixture. The fact that they hold the head-to-head advantage over the Swedes could also prove to be key.

As things stand, they look like favourites to finish second. If things go their way, they could even have an opportunity to finish top.

The group is certainly set up for a grandstand finish from an Irish perspective.

SEE ALSO: Here's The Exciting Ireland Team We Want To See Against Armenia

LiveScore is holding a special fan event in Dublin to debate the UEFA Champions League with a panel of Evan Ferguson, Denis Irwin & Emma Byrne, hosted by Conor McNamara

Reserve your spot for this unmissable night in The Camden on the 30th May by clicking here.

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