Ireland to face Israel in Under-21 two-legged play-off game in September

Ireland to face Israel in Under-21 two-legged play-off game in September

UEFA Under 21 European Championship Qualifier, Ireland’s Tyreik Wright with Pietro Pellegri of Italy

THE Republic of Ireland U21s have been drawn against Israel in the play-off round for the 2023 European Championships.

They will now face the Israelis over two legs in September 2022 and the winner will go to next summer’s showpiece event in Romania and Georgia.

The draw, which took place on Tuesday morning at Nyon in Switzerland, paired eight teams together for the play-offs.

The Republic of Ireland could have faced Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Iceland, Slovakia, or Ukraine.

The play-off winners will join Belgium, England, France, Georgia, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Spain, and Switzerland at the showpiece event next summer.

Jim Crawford’s side will go into games against Israel with a freight train of momentum behind them after an impressive qualification campaign.

They kick-started their bid to reach a first ever major tournament by beating Bosnia and Herzegovina away from home last September. Ireland then played Luxembourg twice in quick succession, and they got four points against the Red Lions.

The country’s hopes of qualifying were dented last winter when Ireland suffered back to back defeats to Montenegro and Italy.

This piled pressure on Crawford’s side, who welcomed Sweden to Dublin in their final game of 2021.

The Swedes, who were considered Ireland’s main rivals for a play-off spot, lost to a goal from Ollie O’Neil in injury time.

The two teams met again in March 2022, and the Boys in Green ground out a 2-0 victory in Borås.

Ireland made it four wins in a row in qualifying when they beat Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro in early June.

This set up Ireland’s final group game as a play-off with Italy for automatic promotion to the final tournament.

A talented Italian team made sure they were on the plane to Romania and Georgia by winning 4-1.

This was a gallant performance by Ireland, who started out life as the basement team in a number of Under-21 qualification campaigns.

Just a two legged clash with Israel now stands between them and their first ever major tournament.

The Israelis have only qualified for the competition once, and they did so as hosts in 2013. They did reach the play-offs in 2009, and there they were beaten 3-1 on aggregate by Italy.

The Blue and Whites faced Germany, Poland, Hungary, Latvia, and San Marino in their qualification group for the 2023 European Championships.

Israel finished in second place and they secured a play-off point by a solitary point. Despite this nerve wrecking end to the campaign, they finished their campaign with six wins and a draw.

Israel also scored nineteen goals, which was the third highest in the group. They also lost twice to Germany, who are the defending champions, by a single goal.

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