EASY. We’re going to Euro 2012. The cat is in the sack, the cat is wild, but the sack is closed and so forth. Those pesky Estonians didn’t stand a chance. Never mind the fact that they had 60% possession in the first half of the first leg, despite being a man down. (Their plight might have been helped had any of their attempts on goal been from within 40 yards; Vassiljev spent the entire match endeavouring to become the first man in history to score with a shot taken from a different area code.) Anyway, who needs possession when you can hoof the ball? Hoofing is way better craic.
Now that we’ve finally qualified, we can turn our attention to the draw which takes place in Kiev in couple of week’s time. Who can Ireland face? Who do we want to face? Will we come face to face with a team we’ve faced before but don’t want to face facing again?
Each group (A to D) will contain one team from Pot 1, one from Pot 2 and so on.
As hosts, Poland (Group A) and Ukraine (Group D) are automatically placed in Pot 1 and are joined by big dogs Spain and the Netherlands.
Pot 2 contains Italy (you can never rule them out), Germany (you can never rule them out), and England (you can never rule them out, until they have a mediocre first game and the English media jumps on their back like some randy, maniacal, disease-ridden gorilla). Richard Dunne’s Russia just about sneak into this pot by virtue of the 0-0 draw between Croatia and Turkey in last night's playoff second leg. (Although Croatia won 3-0 on aggregate, they needed to win BOTH legs in order to usurp Russia’s place in Pot 2. FIFA and their craaaaaaazy rankings.)
The Croatians are joined in Pot 3 by Sweden, who qualified as best-placed runners-up, Cristiano “Won’t-Be-a-Player-So-Long-as-He-Has-a-Hole-in-His-Arse” Ronaldo's Portugal, and everyone’s favourite political and economical laughing stock that isn’t Ireland, Greece. HA.
Meanwhile, Pot 4 is made up of Denmark, the Czech Republic, France (“Boo! Hiss! We don’t like those guys!”), and the first team to qualify for a major tournament without completing a single forward pass since Jack Charlton’s Ireland, Giovanni Trapattoni’s Ireland.
By my reckoning, of the sixty-four possible outcomes, these would be the ten most favourable draws:
1) Ukraine, Russia, Greece
2) Poland, Russia, Greece
3) Ukraine, Russia, Sweden
4) Poland, Russia, Sweden
5) Ukraine, Russia, Croatia
6) Poland, Russia, Croatia
7) Ukraine, Italy, Greece
8) Poland, Italy, Greece
9) Ukraine, Italy, Sweden
10) Poland, Italy, Sweden
And these the ten least favourable:
55) Netherlands, England, Croatia
56) Spain, England, Croatia
57) Netherlands, Germany, Croatia
58) Spain, Germany, Croatia
59) Netherlands, Italy, Portugal
60) Spain, Italy, Portugal
61) Netherlands, England. Portugal
62) Spain, England, Portugal
63) Netherlands, Germany, Portugal
64) Spain, Germany, Portugal
It doesn’t take a world football expert of the ilk of, say, Trevor Steven, to notice that there’s quite a substantial difference between best and worst case scenario. Will Trapattoni’s luck run out? To be fair, the odds aren’t in our favour. (In the extended version of the above list, things start getting pretty hairy at around number 26.) But sure we're guaranteed at least three grand auld sessions out of it anyway, says you. And who knows, maybe a bit of this:
The draw for the Euro 2012 group stage takes place in Kiev on Friday the 2nd of December at 5pm GMT.