20 Oct 2009

France draw Ireland in European football play-offs

9:53 am on 20 October 2009

Former champions France have been handed a potentially tough test in their bid to qualify for the Fifa World Cup football finals after drawing the Republic of Ireland in the European play-offs.

Giovanni Trapattoni's Irish side were one of the most impressive in their qualifying group eight, which was dominated by Italy.

And they were one of two teams the French wanted to avoid for the two-leg play-off in which Ireland play at home on November 14th before travelling to France four days later.

The other team France wasn't keen on seeing in their draw was Ukraine.

On the plus side for France is the fact they will travel to Dublin's Croke Park, where the capacity is around 82,000, first. A second leg there could have been a handicap.

Portugal, the runners-up in group one behind winners Denmark, will meet Bosnia-Herzegovina over two legs with home advantage first.

Greece, runners-up in group two behind Switzerland, will host Ukraine first before their second leg four days later while Russia host Slovenia first.

France had a mediocre qualifying campaign in group seven, won by Serbia, but eventually finished seven points ahead of third-placed Austria.

While France were winners in 1998, the Republic of Ireland are bidding for only their fourth appearance at the finals, their last coming at the 2002 edition in Korea/Japan.

The group winners from the European zone who have already qualified are Denmark, Switzerland, Slovakia, Germany, Spain, England, Serbia, Italy and the Netherlands.