Slovakia have been given until December 20 to decide whether to host the Republic of Ireland in Trnava or Bratislava next March as Uefa continued planning for the Euro 2020 play-off draw on Friday morning.
The Slovakians, whose head coach Pavel Hapal won the last of his 31 caps for the Czech Republic against an Ireland team being managed by Mick McCarthy for only the second time in April 1996, staged their first home meeting against Ireland in Bratislava 12 years ago, watched by a near-capacity crowd of 12,360, who witnessed a 2-2 draw in a Euro 2008 qualifier.
Three years later, Zilnia was the venue for Ireland’s second visit to Slovakia, when a 1-1 draw helped Giovanni Trapattoni’s team towards the finals of Euro 2012.
The City Arena in Trnava, with a capacity of 19,200, may be the venue of choice for the sixth meeting of Slovakia and Ireland on Thursday, March 26, 2020. This has become Slovakia’s regular home, having hosted all of their last 12 competitive matches.
Slovakia emerged as Ireland’s semi-final play-off opponents last night after Wales beat Hungary 2-0 in Cardiff to secure automatic qualification as runners-up to Croatia in Group E.
Slovakia’s 2-0 home win over Azerbaijan in Trnava lifted them to third in that group, earning a clash with Ireland, a team they haven’t beaten in five attempts.
Four of those meetings have been drawn, however, including three in qualifying competition (0-0 in Dublin, 2-2 and 1-1 in Slovakia).
The only decisive outcome was at Croke Park in March 2007, when Kevin Doyle’s early goal settled a Euro 2008 qualifier in Ireland’s favour.
At one point the possibility emerged of Ireland enjoying home advantage for a play-off against Bulgaria or Israel as Uefa considered elevating McCarthy’s team to the Path A play-off pool.
But Wales’ win rendered that scenario redundant, leaving Path B one-leg semi-finals pitting Slovakia against Ireland, with Bosnia-Herzegovina hosting Northern Ireland.
This raises the possibility of an all-Ireland decider on Tuesday, March 31.
Shane Duffy and Glenn Whelan will be available for a potential final play-off after Uefa confirmed that yellow cards in group-stage matches will be scrubbed for the two-part play-off phase.
Ireland’s semi-final opponents: Slovakia (Fifa World Ranking 31)
Euro qualifications: 1 (2016)
Star player: Marek Hamsik (Dalian Yifang, PR China).
Head coach: Pavel Hapal (P12 W6 D2 L4)
Form in Euro 2020 qualifiers: P8 W4 D1 L3 F13 A11 Pts13
Last 10 competitive home matches: W7 D1 L2
Ireland’s record vs Slovakia: P5 W1 D4 L0 F6 A5
Ireland’s possible final opponents: Bosnia and Herzegovina (Fifa World Ranking 48)
Euro qualifications: 0
Star player: Edin Dzeko (AS Roma)
Head coach: Robert Prosinecki (P22 W9 D6 L7)
Form in Euro 2020 qualifiers: P10 W4 D1 L5 F20 A17 Pts 13
Ireland’s record vs Bosnia and Herzegovina : P3 W2 D1 L0 F4 A1
Northern Ireland (Fifa World Ranking 34)
Euro qualifications: 1 (2016)
Star player: Steve Davis (Rangers)
Head coach: Michael O’Neill (P72 W26 D18 L28)
Form in Euro 2020 qualifiers: P8 W4 D1 L3 F9 A13 Pts13
Ireland’s record vs N. Ireland P11 W4 D5 L2 F17 A14
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