Having just missed out on second place in their qualifying group to Poland, the Republic of Ireland will have to book their place at Euro 2016 the hard way in a two-legged play-off against Bosnia & Herzegovina.
After remarkably defeating Germany 1-0, Martin O’Neill’s side had put themselves in a position where victory or a high-scoring draw against Poland would put them second, but ultimately they lost 2-1.
Now they must go to Bosnia for the first-leg, who themselves missed out on automatic qualification despite finishing the group with three straight wins – including a 2-0 victory over Wales.
The Irish have only qualified for the finals twice, but they were in Poland and Ukraine in 2012, where they were eliminated after losing all three group matches.
Bosnia, who until 1992 were part of Yugoslavia, have never reached the Euros but did qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
The trip to the Dragons isn’t an easy one, with the hosts losing just one of their home matches in qualifying – a 2-1 slip-up against Cyprus – while taking four points off Belgium and Wales on home soil.
Added to this, Ireland have failed to find the target in six of their last 11 away fixtures but will take heart from their impressive 1-1 draw with Germany in Gelsenkirchen last year.
Bosnia will have a fully fit team to choose from as well, which includes all-time top scorer and former Manchester City striker Edin Dzeko, who has 44 goals in 74 caps and is currently on loan at AS Roma.
Ireland do not have the same luxuries in the injury department, with John O’Shea and Shane Long fitness doubts in particular, while Rob Elliot, Paul McShane and Alan Judge are also carrying slight niggles.
Group Position: Bosnia & Herzegovina – 3rd (17 points); Republic of Ireland – 3rd (18 points)
Last Meeting: Republic of Ireland 1-0 Bosnia & Herzegovina (Friendly – May 26, 2012)
Key Men: Bosnia & Herzegovina – Edin Dzeko; Republic of Ireland – Darren Randolph
Form: Bosnia & Herzegovina – DWLWWW; Republic of Ireland – DDWWWL
Shoot Says: Bosnia & Herzegovina 0-0 Republic of Ireland