Stephen Kenny's Ireland to face Ronaldo and Portugal in World Cup qualifiers

Stephen Kenny's Ireland to face Ronaldo and Portugal in World Cup qualifiers

Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny faces a tough task if Ireland are to qualify for the next World Cup.

THE Republic of Ireland have been drawn against Portugal, Serbia, Luxembourg, and Azerbaijan in Group A of the qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

The draw was made at the FIFA Headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland on Monday afternoon with the official dates for all eight of Ireland’s games set to be confirmed in due course.

Due to the Boys in Green’s underwhelming performances during the European Championship Qualifiers and UEFA Nations League, they took their place in Pot three along with Russia, Hungary, Czech Republic, Norway, Northern Ireland, Iceland, Scotland, Greece, Finland, all of whom they therefore couldn’t face.

Although the Irish defence will have to deal with the likes of Diogo Jota and Cristiano Ronaldo when they take on Portugal, the draw could have presented a much more difficult proposition overall while fans will also be glad to avoid familiar foes such as Denmark, Wales, and Georgia.

Stephen Kenny will be hoping to guide the Republic of Ireland to their first World Cup in 20 years, since their memorable campaign in South Korea and Japan back in 2002.

The Irish boss will also be hoping to banish the demons from the nation’s last attempt at qualifying for the previous competition in Russia in 2018, which infamously saw them lose 5-1 to Denmark at the Aviva Stadium in the second leg of their playoff having drawn the first leg 0-0 in Copenhagen.

Kenny’s winless run currently stands at eight games and they are also without a goal in 11 hours of play, with their only finish so far during the former Dundalk manager’s reign being a late Shane Duffy header from a corner away to Bulgaria in September.

That will, of course, need to be rectified during 2021 if they are to have any chance of reaching the World Cup.

Liverpool goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher saves a shot during the Premier League match at Anfield, Liverpool. 
Liverpool goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher saves a shot during the Premier League match at Anfield, Liverpool. 

The draw saw 55 European nations being split into five groups of six teams and five groups of five teams with just 13 then progressing to the finals in the Middle East.

Ten of those will be the group winners while the ten runners up will head into the playoffs accompanied by the two best-ranked Nations League group winners who don’t finish in the top two of their qualification group.

The 12 teams in the playoffs will be split into three separate playoff paths, each of which will comprise of semi-finals and final, with the three winners heading to Qatar.

Notable ties elsewhere in the group stages saw Wales drawn against Belgium, England against Poland, and Scotland against Denmark while Northern Ireland are in Group C along with Italy, Switzerland, Bulgaria, and Lithuania.

The Republic’s campaign will commence with a double-header in March before two further fixtures in each of September, October, and November 2021.

The controversial World Cup in Qatar takes place from the 21st of November to the 18th of December in 2022 and the draw for that tournament is set to take place in April of that year and hopefully, the Republic of Ireland will be included in it.

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