Sue Ronan

Republic of Ireland WNT will start their EURO 2017 campaign at home to Finland

Sue Ronan says it is a competitive group

The Republic of Ireland Women’s National Team will start their EURO 2017 campaign at home to Finland after being drawn in a group that also includes Spain, Portugal and Montenegro at today’s draw in Nyon.

Ireland, who went into the draw as third seeds, will meet second seeds Finland on September 21 before travelling to Portugal in October and then hosting top seeds Spain at home on November 26. Here is the result of the UEFA EURO 2017 qualifying group stage draw

The squad begin 2016 with an away double header in April against Montenegro and Spain followed by the return game away to Finland in June. Ireland will then finish the campaign with two home games against Montenegro in June and Portugal in September.

Republic of Ireland’s EURO 2017 Qualifying Fixtures are:

21-09-15 v Finland (h)
27-10-15 v Portugal (a)
26-11-15 v Spain (h)
07-04-16 v Montenegro (a)
12-04-16 v Spain (a)
03-06-16 v Finland (a)
07-06-16 v Montenegro (h)
20-09-16 v Portugal (h)

The group winners and the six best runners-up will join the hosts, the Netherlands, in the final tournament. The other two runners-up will play off in October 2016 for the remaining berth in the expanded 16-team finals to be held the following summer.

Over the past three years Ireland have played Spain, Finland and Portugal but the game against Montenegro will be the first meeting of the sides. They played Spain on April 8 in a friendly and were unlucky to lose 1-0 as Louise Quinn had a goal disallowed seven minutes from the end. They also lost 1-0 to Finland when the sides last met at the 2013 Cyprus Cup and were beaten 2-1 by Portugal at the Algarve Cup in 2012.

Spain are heading to this summer’s Women’s World Cup in Canada after dropping just two points in ten games in winning their qualifying group while Finland finished third in Group 7 behind France and Austria despite accumulating 21 points from ten games. Portugal were fourth in Group 5 behind Norway, Netherlands and Belgium with their 12 points coming from home and away wins over the bottom two teams in the group – Greece and Albania. Montenegro finished bottom of a group won by England losing all ten games in the process.

Ireland manager Sue Ronan was delighted to have avoided the likes of Germany and France but believes it is still going to be a tough challenge for her side to make the top two in the group.

Ronan said: “I think this is a very competitive group with teams capable of taking points of each other. Spain are a very good team who are heading to the World Cup on the back of a qualifying campaign where they won nine games and drew the other. Finland qualified for EURO 2013 while Portugal were the best team in Pot 4 and nobody wanted them because they have the potential to take points off sides. Even Montenegro will be difficult as they led twice against Turkey in the last campaign before losing to an own goal. It’s going to be tough to finish in the top two and we certainly won’t be underestimating anybody.”

Road to the Netherlands

Qualifying group stage: September 14, 2015 – September 20, 2016.
Play-off draw: September 23, 2016, in Nyon.
Play-offs: October 17-25, 2016.
Finals draw: late 2016, Netherlands.
Finals: July/August 2017, Netherlands

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