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Wednesday 28 September 2016

Ireland's Euro fate in the melting pot as groups unwind

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill
Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill

The if, buts and maybes associated with Ireland's future in Euro 2016 won't make good reading for our Northern Ireland cousins. Martin O'Neill needs Germany to beat them and beat them well.

Michael O'Neill has won many fans for Northern Ireland's excellent win over Ukraine which came on the back of a morale-shattering beating by Poland in their opening fixture.

But Germany are next up and our O'Neill needs them to lose.

First and foremost, Ireland must beat Italy and preferably by a few goals.

But before that even happens, Ireland need two of the five other groups in the Euros to fall their way.

Only once in the history of 24-team tournaments has a team with four points not made the last 16 and Big Jack's Ireland were at the heart of that.

Ireland, Italy, Norway and Mexico, all managed to win a game, draw a game and lose a game in USA 94. Norway were placed fourth on goals scored and had to pack their bags.

That can't happen this time because Italy have already won twice.

A key set of results for O'Neill and his players will be the final outcome of Group C and sadly, we need Germany to beat Northern Ireland, leaving the other Boys in Green stuck on three points.

Germany have to win the match to have a chance of topping the Group. But if Northern Ireland can keep the defeat to 1-0 or 2-1 they still might make it with us - and that's the dream!

Group D tomorrow night Tuesday night is straightforward.

O'Neill needs Turkey to win or draw against the Czech Republic, which would leave the third placed team with a maximum of three points.

Groups B and F are more complicated. In England's Group B tonight, Roy Hodgson's men must win Wales at least draw with Russia. Those two results would leave the third placed team with three points.

In Group F, which concludes an hour before Ireland take to the pitch on Wednesday night, it gets complicated.

Ireland need the tournament's new kids on the block Iceland to draw with Austria. That again keeps the third placed team in that group on three points.

If they don't and the Austrians end Iceland's dream, we then require Portugal to batter Hungary in the other game to hammer their goal difference - or Hungary to get a draw and perhaps eliminate Ronaldo and Co.

All of this will mean absolutely nothing if O'Neill cannot somehow find a way to lift his players out of the slump which saw them gift three precious goals to Belgium and transform what was a promising position after the 1-1 draw with Sweden at the Stade de France into a make or break 90 minutes against Italy.

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