The Republic of Ireland received a major boost in their bid to qualify for Euro 2012 today after being paired with Estonia in the play-offs.
Giovanni Trapattoni’s men were seeded for the draw, but still could have faced arguably more tricky tests against the likes of Turkey, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Montenegro.
Instead, they will head to Tallinn for the first leg on November 11th or 12th, before looking to complete the job at the Aviva Stadium on November 15th.
The outcome of the draw in Krakow was another bonus for Ireland, who were arguably fortunate to beat Armenia 2-1 in Dublin earlier this week to clinch second place in Group B.
Referee Eduardo Iturralde Gonzalez chose to dismiss Armenian keeper Roman Berezovsky for handling outside the area when he appeared to control it with his chest when beating Simon Cox to a ball over the top.
To make matters worse for the visitors, replays also showed that Cox had initially taken the ball down with his arm.
However, Ireland will not care one jot after their failure in the play-offs for World Cup 2010, when Thierry Henry’s infamous handball in Paris led to the William Gallas goal that ultimately knocked them out.
The men in green are now priced at 7/20 to qualify for next summer’s showpiece in Poland and Ukraine and have been cut from 100/1 to 80/1 to win the tournament.
Meanwhile, they are rated as 3/2 favourites to win the first leg of the play-off in Estonia, with the hosts at 7/4 and the draw available at 9/4.
Ireland will need to be wary, though, as Estonia managed to finish above the likes of Serbia and Slovenia in taking second place in their qualifying group, while also doing the double over Northern Ireland.
Elsewhere, Montenegro, who secured two draws with England in Group G, will face the Czech Republic, with Turkey meeting Croatia and Portugal facing Bosnia & Herzegovina.
The 32 teams who book their places at the tournament – which is set to run from June 8th until July 1st next year – will find out their opponents when the group draw is made in Kiev on 2nd December.
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