Ireland qualified for the European Championships for the first time since 1988 after a disciplined run through a tricky group.
The draw hasn't been kind to the Irish side, but with the prospect of Giovanni Trapattoni's team facing off against his countrymen, Ireland could provide a few shocks.
FIFA Ranking: 18
Elo Ranking: 20
Best Performance at European Championships: First round (1988)
Ireland have only ever appeared at the finals once before, and were hugely unlucky not to qualify from Group B. Ray Houghton scored the only goal of the game against England to help the Irish record a famous victory. A draw with the Soviet Union meant that Ireland would qualify for the semi-finals if they held the Netherlands in the final game. A late goal from Wim Kieft goal put pay to any Irish hopes.
How they qualified: Runners Up in Group B (5-1 aggregate winners over Estonia)
Ireland finished just two points behind group winners, Russia. They remained unbeaten away from home during the entire campaign, and only lost a single match: a hard fought 3-2 reversal to Russia.
A playoff against surprise runners-up Estonia was a good deal more convincing than many had expected, with Ireland winning the first leg 4-0, thanks to goals from Keith Andrews, Jonathon Walters and a Robbie Keane double. The formality of the second leg produced a 1-1 draw, and Ireland were home and dry.
The Boss: Giovanni Trapattoni
There can be few more experienced coaches in the whole of world football than Trappatoni. After a successful playing career with AC Milan and Italy, he took his first job in management at Milan before unprecedented successes at Juventus between 1974 and 1984. Trapattoni led Juve to six Serie A titles in ten years and won the European Cup, UEFA Cup and European Cup Winners’ Cup.
Trapattoni then spent five years at Inter, where he added another Serie A title and another UEFA Cup trophy. He returned to Juventus and added yet another UEFA Cup to his honours list. Either side of a short stint at Cagliari, the Italian took charge of Bayern Munich, winning the Bundesliga and both German Cup competitions. Next up was Fiorentina, who he led to a Champions League place.
In 2000 he was appointed manager of the Italian national side, but his team failed to make an impression on either the World Cup in 2002 or the 2004 European Championships and he was replaced. His next move was to Benfica, where he added another league title in another country. He added Austria to the list of league wins when he took Red Bull Salzburg to the title in 2006/07. In February 2008 he took over the Irish job, leading the country to the 2011 Nations Cup.
One to watch: James McClean (Sunderland)
The winger has courted controversy in recent weeks, first for his decision to play for the Republic of Ireland after being capped at under-21 level by Northern Ireland and then for the ensuing reaction. Still, the 23-year-old has made a noticeable impact in a very short space of time.
Until Martin O’Neill turned up at the Stadium of Light, McClean had been almost completely anonymous for Sunderland. Since January he has played a starring role, scoring five goals and setting up several more. He only made his Ireland debut in friendly with Czech Republic in February 2012, but could be a key player for Ireland this summer.
Likely line-up: Trapattoni has generally utilised a steady, defensive 4-4-2 formation, with two wingers. The recent friendly with the Czech Republic suggested that he has a relatively settled side and is likely to start with Shay Given in goals, with John O’Shea at right back, Richard Dunne and Sean St Ledger at centre back and Stephen Ward at left back.
Glenn Whelan and Keith Andrews usually hold the centre of midfield, with Aiden McGeady and Damien Duff on either side. Robbie Keane will play up front with Shane Long or, more likely, Kevin Doyle.
People who read this story also read
In this section
- Euro 2012 talk: Blokhin's 'man talk', Trapattoni's plans and John Delaney
- Giovanni Trapattoni aiming to rebuild Ireland under 'another system'
- Ireland must adapt their tactics ahead of World Cup 2014 qualifiers
- Italy 2-0 Rep Ireland: Irish huff and puff but are snuffed out by Balotelli
- The return of the real Fernando Torres prompts Ireland defeat
- STV Sports Daily at the Euros: Spain supreme, Pirlo's perfect set piece
- Five things that we've learned from Group C
- Italy to rest up to prevent performance dips after letting leads slip
- Euro 2012 Talk: Bilic blames ref, Ireland's lament, a malevolent boot
- Spain 4-0 Rep of Ireland: Irrepressible Spain inspired by Fernando Torres