In terms of international windows, they don’t come much bigger than this for Mick McCarthy and Ireland.
Ireland sit top of group D with just three games to play but face a real battle to secure a top-two position and automatic qualification for next year’s Euro 2020.
First up is Georgia away on Saturday and that is followed by a trip to Geneva to face Switzerland on Tuesday, two games that will go a long way in deciding whether or not Ireland will be involved in next summer’s finals.
What time and where is the Georgia game?
Kick off is 2pm (Irish time) in the Boris Paichadze Dinamo Arena in Tbilisi.
Where can I watch it?
RTE will show it live with coverage starting at 1.45pm. We will also have a minute-by-minute blog on Independent.ie.
What are the odds?
Ireland win: 6/5.
Georgia win: 5/2.
Goalkeepers: Darren Randolph (Middlesbrough), Mark Travers (AFC Bournemouth), Kieran O’Hara (Burton Albion, on loan from Manchester United)
Defenders: Seamus Coleman (Everton), Matt Doherty (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Kevin Long (Burnley), John Egan (Sheffield United), Darragh Lenihan (Blackburn Rovers), Greg Cunningham (Blackburn Rovers), Enda Stevens (Sheffield United)
Midfielders: Alan Browne (Preston North End), Josh Cullen (Charlton Athletic, on loan from West Ham United), Glenn Whelan (Heart of Midlothian), Conor Hourihane (Aston Villa), James McClean (Stoke City), Ronan Curtis (Portsmouth), Jeff Hendrick (Burnley), Callum O’Dowda (Bristol City), Jack Byrne (Shamrock Rovers)
Forwards: James Collins (Luton Town), Sean Maguire (Preston North End), Callum Robinson (Sheffield United), Alan Judge (Ipswich Town), Scott Hogan (Stoke City, on loan from Aston Villa)
The top two from the 10 groups will qualify automatically and the remaining four will come from a series of play-off matches..
First let’s have a look at automatic qualification.
- All matches between the top three sides have so far ended in draws. Here is what happens if one or more teams finish equal on points.
- Higher number of points obtained in the matches played among the teams in question;
- Superior goal difference in matches played among the teams in question;
- Higher number of goals scored in the matches played among the teams in question;
- Higher number of goals scored away from home in the matches played among the teams in question;
- If, after having applied criteria 1 to 4, teams still have an equal ranking, criteria 1 to 4 are reapplied exclusively to the matches between the teams in question to determine their final rankings.[a] If this procedure does not lead to a decision, criteria 6 to 10 apply;
- Superior goal difference in all group matches;
- Higher number of goals scored in all group matches;
- Higher number of away goals scored in all group matches;
- Higher number of wins in all group matches;
- Higher number of away wins in all group matches;
- Fair play conduct in all group matches (1 point for a single yellow card, 3 points for a red card as a consequence of two yellow cards, 3 points for a direct red card, 4 points for a yellow card followed by a direct red card);
- Position in the UEFA Nations League overall ranking.
The Play-Off route
If Ireland finish first or second in the current Euro 2020 qualifying group, they will play at Euro 2020. If they don’t finish first or second, here’s what happens.
With 20 of the 24 teams qualifying for the 2020 through the group stages, and no out-and-out host nation, the final four places will be decided with a series of play-off matches.
However, places in these play-off matches are awarded on how you did, not at the Euro 2020 qualifying, but in last year’s Nations League.
The Republic of Ireland finished 23rd in those rankings, with Northern Ireland one place behind us, so what both Irish teams may need is as many as possible of the obvious top teams, France, Germany, Spain, England etc, to qualify directly so that a play-off place will tumble down.
Looking at the current standings in the groups, even with some teams still having six matches to play, Groups B and E of the Euro qualifiers are of special interest to Ireland. There, countries like Portugal, Serbia, Croatia and Wales are struggling to qualify.
The likelihood is that Ireland will be involved in the play-offs and will face an away semi-final, which will just be the one leg, against a higher ranked team with the venue for the final decided by a draw involving the participating teams.
Saturday, October 12
Group D: Georgia v Republic of Ireland, Denmark v Switzerland
Thursday, October 15
Group D: Switzerland v Republic of Ireland, Gibraltar v Georgia
Friday, November 15
Group D: Switzerland v Georgia, Denmark v Gibraltar
Monday, November 18
Group D: Gibraltar v Switzerland, Republic of Ireland v Denmark