Football/Soccer

Irish sides heading to Bosnia and to Slovakia - unless Wales don't win

The Republic of Ireland's John Egan (left) and Northern Ireland's Gavin Whyte battle for the ball during the friendly in Dublin last year. 

IRISH eyes will be on Cardiff tonight as the outcome of Wales versus Hungary will have an impact on the play-off fates of both teams from this island.

A Welsh win would confirm the following pairings next March: Republic of Ireland away to Slovakia and Northern Ireland travelling to take on Bosnia & Herzegovina.

However, if Wales don’t win they would be potential opponents for Mick McCarthy’s men (but not NI).

There is no longer an ‘all-Ireland’ group scenario at the Euros now as that could only have occurred if Mick McCarthy’s men had qualified automatically by beating Denmark in Dublin last night.

Now, though, the two Irish sides could meet in the Path B play-off final - but obviously only one of them can progress to the Euros.

If Hungary win to qualify automatically, at the expense of both Wales and Slovakia, that would increase the chances of Michael O’Neill’s team having a home match - in Path A of next year’s Euro 2020 play-offs. NI, Wales, and Slovakia would all be in the draw to be elevated into the Path A play-off.

However, if NI remain in Path B, and win it, they would have at least one Euro match close to home, in Dublin, as the Path B winners will go into Group E, along with Spain – and potentially the Republic of Ireland.

If the Republic of Ireland do qualify they will have home advantage for two group games but would meet Spain in Bilbao in the other one.

If Northern Ireland were to come through the Path B play-off they would also have two group matches in Dublin but have to play the Spanish in their home base of Bilbao.

A Hungarian victory in Cardiff this evening would send both the Welsh and the Slovakians into the play-offs, joining Bosnia & Herzegovina, Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland.

With five teams from League B of the Nations League (remember it?) one of them would have to be elevated into Path A of the play-offs.

Given that Bosnia & Herzegovina topped their Nations League group, they are guaranteed a home draw in the play-off semi-finals, so would remain in Path B, meaning Friday’s draw would decide which of NI, Slovakia, or Wales would go up into Path A.

As the Republic of Ireland are Euro 2020 hosts, they will remain in Path B to ensure there is one (potential) host in that path.

If Northern Ireland are drawn into Path A, they would meet one of Bulgaria, Israel, or Romania. The Romanians will definitely go into Path A because Bucharest is one of the host cities of Euro 2020.

Looking slightly further ahead, winning the Path A play-offs would pit NI against familiar opponents at the Euros, with the team progressing from that route going into group C against the Netherlands, Ukraine, and one other. Those group C games would take place in Amsterdam and Bucharest.

If Northern Ireland remain in Path B and qualify that way, they would be in the same Euros group as Spain, with a draw to decide the other two opponents.

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