Republic of Ireland drawn against Estonia in Euro 2012 play-offs

Click to follow
The Independent Football

Estonia stand between the Republic of Ireland and a place in next summer's European Championships after the two were paired together in today's play-off draw.

Having finished second to Russia in qualifying group B for the tournament, Giovanni Trapattoni's men must now amend a dreadful two-legged record to book their place in Poland and Ukraine.

They have tasted success just once in the five play-offs they have featured in before now - getting the better of Iraq to qualify for the 2002 World Cup - and must make it two wins from six if they are to make what would be only a second appearance at the finals of the European Championships.

Their most recent flirtation with a play-off ended in acrimony, when Thierry Henry's handball helped France qualify for last year's World Cup at their expense, while they have also fallen foul of Holland, Belgium and Turkey.

Ireland will start their latest attempt to qualify for a major tournament in Estonia on Friday, November 11, with the return leg at Dublin's Aviva Stadium on Tuesday, November 15.

"It is extremely positive for Ireland that we will play the first leg away," veteran coach Trapattoni said.

"We should not underestimate our opposition, or any team, including Estonia.

"To have made it through to the play-off, they must have quality and mental fortitude.

"Our build up to this stage of the competition has shown us the importance of organisation, attention to detail, and self-belief.

"That will be vitally important to us as we prepare for these games in November."

Tarmo Ruutli's Estonia emerged from a group containing Italy, Northern Ireland, Serbia, Slovenia and the Faroe Islands to take second place, and with it earn a first-ever play-off berth.

They have never made the finals of a major tournament, and history is not on their side either.

The two historical meetings between the pair have gone the way of the Irish, 2-0 on both occasions in qualifying for the 2002 World Cup, with Richard Dunne on target in each game.

Former Republic of Ireland striker John Aldridge has backed the team to beat Estonia and qualify for the finals.

Asked if he thought Trapattoni's side would go through, he told Sky Sports News: "Yes. We've got the greatest travelling fans and it would be great to see them on the road again."'

The former Liverpool player believes the Republic were fortunate to draw Estonia.

He said: "It was probably the easiest of the four (unseeded teams to draw).

"We travel better than we play at home, we've had better results away than we have had at home."

Aldridge admitted the suspension of striker Kevin Doyle, still waiting to hear the length of his punishment after being sent off in the qualifier against Armenia on Tuesday which the Republic won 2-1, would be a blow to the team's chances.

However, he backed Shane Long to fill the breach.

"Shane Long has done really well when he has deputised for either Robbie (Keane) or Kevin so it's a great opportunity for him," he said.

Ireland have only reached the European Championship finals once before - in West Germany in 1988 - but will be relatively pleased to have drawn Estonia.

There were tougher-looking assignments in the pot of unseeded teams they could have been put up against, with the other ties seeing Turkey taking on Croatia, the Czech Republic facing Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina going up against Portugal.

Portugal and Bosnia were both losers in winner-takes-all showdowns on Tuesday, with Portugal being defeated by Denmark and with it surrendering top spot in Group H, while Bosnia drew 1-1 with France when a win would have seen them pip Laurent Blanc's men to the automatic spot in Group B.

The Czechs took second in Group I, winning a two-way tussle with Scotland to finish behind reigning champions Spain.

Euro 2012 playoff draw made in Krakow:

Turkey v Croatia

Estonia v Ireland

Czech Republic v Montenegro

Bosnia v Portugal

Matches to be played November 11/12 and 15.

The Independent's view on Estonia: "The weakest play-off contender. Lost six of their last nine matches, including against the Faroe Islands, but did beat Northern Ireland home and away."

Comments