The Road to Rio begins on Saturday with the draw for the 2014 World Cup. With Giovanni Trapattoni aiming on staying in the managerial hot-seat until the finals in Brazil, Irish fans will be awaiting the outcome with bated breath. Pitted as a third seed once again, drawing England and France is just one of the possibilities that awaits the Republic. With European Championship qualification still in the balance, we can cast our minds further for a moment and dream of a tantalising Gaelic and Samba infusion and a meeting on Copacabana Beach of the Boys in Green and the Boys from Brazil.
The Marina da Gloria in Rio De Janeiro is the setting for proceedings on Saturday and the pot allocations were announced this week placing Ireland amongst the third-ranked teams.
The potential for an absolute horror outcome is as possible as ever. Despite the fact that we have exported many of our sons and daughters to New Zealand, we can only gaze longingly at the Oceania Group where the All Whites, who qualified for their first tournament in 2010, must overcome the might of the likes of Vanuatu, New Caledonia, and the Solomon Islands.
Among the scenarios awaiting Ireland is a possible group consisting of England, France, Northern Ireland, Faroe Islands, and Wales. London and Paris would provide phenomenal Irish support and prove appetising away trips for the sure-to-swell ranks of the Green Army. In addition, the North and Welsh were among the poorest teams to visit Dublin in recent seasons.
Former manager and amiable Dubliner Brian Kerr’s wonders off the Scandinavian coast have managed to guide his Faroes charges out of pot six which is now inhabited by Wales. The demise of our Celtic neighbours was heralded by their truly awful display when Ireland disposed of them earlier this year in the Carling Nations Cup.
Irish fans would probably relish another pop at the French and were it to come off, it would garner headlines around the world.
However, the easiest route to Rio for the Republic would probably come from a group that contained the likes of Norway, Slovenia, Albania, Faroe Islands, and Luxembourg.
Irish manager Giovanni Trapattoni has consistently stated his desire to lead Ireland to the finals in South America, becoming the oldest World Cup manager in the process (He’ll be 75 in 2014), partly to right the wrongs he has experienced with Italy and Ireland in the competition and partly because of a desire to conduct the swansong to a remarkable career in the spiritual home of the game in Brazil.
However, Trap’s fate will depend on ending Ireland’s ten year absence from a major tournament by first guiding the Republic to Poland and the Ukraine. Only then can Rio loom large on the horizon and bodhráns drum to a samba beat.
Spain, Holland, Germany, England, Portugal, Italy, Croatia, Norway, Greece
France, Montenegro, Russia, Sweden, Denmark, Slovenia, Turkey
Switzerland, Israel, Republic of Ireland, Belgium, Czech Republic
Bosnia-Herzegovina, Belarus, Ukraine, Hungary
Bulgaria, Romania, Georgia, Lithuania, Albania, Scotland,
Northern Ireland, Austria, Poland
Armenia, Finland, Estonia, Cyprus, Latvia, Moldova, FYR Macedonia
Azerbaijan, Faroe Islands
Wales, Liechtenstein, Iceland, Kazakhstan, Luxembourg, Malta
Andorra, San Marino