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Irish Play Off Matches for Major Football Finals
The Republic of Ireland has only qualified for five major football final competitions: Euro 1988, 1990 World Cup, 1994 World Cup, 2002 World Cup, and the 2012 Euro finals. If the Irish had won all of their qualifier play-off matches over the decades that number would be far greater. Ireland has now qualified for eight play-off ties starting with the 1966 World Cup finals in England right up to the Euro 2016 finals in France.
The first two play-off ties that Ireland reached, in 1965 and 1995, were single matches at a neutral venue. All other play-off ties have been over two legs on a home & away basis. Strangely, until the play-off tie in 2011 against Estonia, Ireland had always been drawn to play the home match first. It is generally accepted that there is an advantage in playing the home match second. This was an advantage denied to the Irish in their first four two-legged play-off ties. This may explain in part why Ireland has only won through the play-off stages just twice.
Irish Play Off Ties
1) 1966 WC Play Off - Ireland v Spain in 1965
Ireland was drawn with Spain and Syria in the qualification group for the 1966 Word Cup finals in England. Following the withdrawal of Syria, Ireland and Spain played each other home and away. Ireland beat Spain 1-0 at Dalymount Park in Dublin but lost 4-1 at the Sanchez Tizjuan Stadium in Seville. In those days goal difference did not count so qualification came own to a single play-off match at a neutral venue.
2) Euro 1996 Play Off - Ireland v Holland 1995
Following Jack Charlton's last qualification campaign as Irish football manager Ireland had finished in the runners-up position six points adrift of Portugal and only ahead of Northern Ireland on goal difference. Ireland's reward was a single play-off match against the Netherlands at the Liverpool FC football ground Anfield Road.
3) 1998 WC Play Off - Ireland v Belgium 1997
New Irish manager, Mick McCarthy, did not have a great qualification campaign for the 1998 World Cup finals. Despite finishing a full ten points behind group winners Romania, Ireland still managed to beat Lithuania to the runners-up position. This was enough to earn Ireland a two-legged play-off against Belgium.
4) Euro 2000 Play Off - Ireland v Turkey 1999
Mick McCarthy managed the Republic of Ireland to a third consecutive play-off challenge in 1999. The Irish qualification campaign for Euro 2000 was marred by the concession of a last minute goal in the last group match against Macedonia. This deprived McCarthy of outright qualification and set up a difficult play-off tie against Turkey.
5) 2002 World Cup Play Off - Ireland v Iran 2001
Mick McCarthy's third consecutive, and Ireland's fifth, play-off tie finally yielded qualification for a major football finals competition. McCarthy became only the second Irish manager to lead the Republic of Ireland to the World Cup finals. An aggregate 2-1 win over Iran in the play-offs meant Ireland were heading to Japan and South Korea for the 2002 World Cup.
6) 2010 World Cup Play Off - Ireland v France 2009
In his first qualification campaign Irish manager Giovanni Trapattoni guided the Irish to second place in the 2010 World Cup Group 8. Although Ireland was six points adrift of group winners Italy the performance was enough to earn a play-off tie against another European football aristocrat, France. The second leg of the play-off tie was hugely eventful including the now infamous Thierry Henry handball incident.
7) Euro 2012 Play Off - Ireland v Estonia 2011
Giovanni Trapattoni led the Republic of Ireland to a second consecutive play-off tie when the Irish finished second to Russia in Euro 2012 qualification Group B.
Due to improved FIFA rankings Ireland was one of the seeded teams which meant that the Irish avoided some very dangerous potential opponents.
As it turned out Ireland was drawn against the weakest team of the second seeds - Estonia. Trapattoni had another stroke of luck when Ireland were drawn to play the first leg away from home.
8) Euro 2016 Play Off - Ireland v Bosnia & Herzegovina 2015
Martin O'Neill guided the Republic of Ireland through a tough Euro 2016 qualifying campaign that included opposition from World Champions Germany, Poland and Scotland. Despite a mixture of poor, and exceptional, results Ireland achieved the outcome that most fans had expected when the draw was first made - a third place play-off position.
The un-seeded Irish were drawn against top seeds Bosnia & Herzegovina in the play-off draw with the second leg to be played in the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.
Number of Appearances and Goals Scored in Irish World Cup Qualifying Campaigns
Number of Appearances and Goals Scored in Irish Euro Championship Finals Qualifying Campaigns