Republic of Ireland’s reward for qualifying to the Euro 2016 will be a group that involves former world champions Italy.
Manager Martin O’Neill conceded that it will be difficult to get out of the group, as it also involves teams like Belgium and Serbia. Belgium have been one of the best teams in the world over the last few months. Ireland had to go through a play-off in order to qualify for the Euro 2016 and the prospect of facing a former world champion will only strike more fear. O’Neill admitted that this was one of the toughest groups that his team could have come up against.
Belgium have done exceedingly well in recent times and they are currently ranked as the second best team according to FIFA. They will be the favourites to qualify from the group as the winners whereas Italy will always remain in contention despite their recent poor form. Manager Antonio Conte took over the national team since the disappointing World Cup 2014. He has managed to impart his own style that has proved successful in recent high-profile friendly matches. Despite the tough group, O’Neill remains confident that the team will be able to get past the group stages.
After a poor Euro 2012, performing well in this major competition is a must for the national team.”I think the draw is difficult for us. But we’ll go there with confidence. We’ll go and try and compete. Naturally you’re talking about Italy in our group, who are effectively a pot one team, and Belgium are considered now the best side in the world – whether you agree with that or not, they are certainly one of the top five or six teams playing in the competition. And Sweden know about these competitions, they’ve got so much experience and seem to know how to qualify and get through,” said O’Neill.