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HOW THEY QUALIFIED

  GROUP B GP GD PTS
1 Russia (Q)       10 7 2 1 13 23
2 Ireland (P) 10 6 3 1 8 21
3 Armenia 10 5 2 3 12 17
4 Slovakia 10 4 3 3 -3 15
5 Macedonia 10 2 2 6 -6 8
6 Andorra          10 0 0 10 -24 0

Won play-off versus Estonia, 5-1 on aggregate

RESULTS TOP SCORERS
Sep 3, 2010 Armenia 0-1 Ireland
Sep 7, 2010 Ireland 3-1 Andorra
Oct 8, 2010 Ireland 2-3 Russia
Oct 12, 2010 Slovakia 1-1 Ireland
Mar 26, 2011  Ireland 2-1 Macedonia
Jun 4, 2011: Macedonia 0-2 Ireland
Sept 2, 2011: Ireland 0-0 Slovakia
Sep 6, 2011: Russia 0-0 Ireland
Oct 7, 2011: Andorra 0-2 Ireland
Oct 11, 2011: Ireland 2-1 Armenia
Nov 11, 2011: Estonia 0-4 Ireland
Nov 15, 2011: Ireland 1-1 Estonia
7 - Robbie Keane
2 - Kevin Doyle,
Aiden McGeady
1 - Keith Andrews,
Richard Dunne,
Keith Fahey,
Kevin Kilbane,
Shane Long,
Sean St Ledger, Jonathan Walters, Stephen Ward, Own Goal

The Irish suffered only one defeat en route to the play-offs, in which they dismantled Estonia away from home before drawing the home leg.

That reverse came at home against Russia, who outclassed the Irish on their own turf.

Ireland had started their campaign with six points out of six, winning away impressively against an improving Armenia before picking up the mandatory three points against Andorra.

Two wins over Macedonia, and another one each over Andorra and Armenia gave Ireland six wins from 10 matches.

The only downside to the Irish campaign was their failure, again, to defeat a team ranked higher than them in the Fifa rankings.

They drew twice, disappointingly, against Slovakia and were lucky to escape Moscow with a point.

PAST RECORD IN THE EUROS 

1960
Did not qualify
1988
Group stage
1964
Did not qualify 1992
Did not qualify
1968
Did not qualify
1996
Did not qualify
1972
Did not qualify 2000
Did not qualify
1976
Did not qualify 2004
Did not qualify
1980
Did not qualify 2008
Did not qualify
1984
Did not qualify 2012
Qualified through play-offs

Only once before have the Irish qualified for the tournament proper. That came in 1988 when Jack Charlton led the team to the finals in West Germany.

There they defeated England, drew with the Soviet Union and lost to the Dutch as they bowed out respectfully at the group stages.

Since then there has been play-off anguish against the Netherlands in 1996 and Turkey in 2000.

The Irish have fared badly in their last two qualification campaigns, finishing low down the pecking order, but have restored some pride with a fine run to these finals.


THE MANAGER | GIOVANNI TRAPATTONI


The trophy-laden Italian trainer has been dealt a fair deal of criticism by an increasingly fussy Irish public.

There is a widespread begrudging of the 73-year-old's preferred tactical methods and squad selections.

But that cantankerousness is ignorant of the fact that Trapattoni has just qualified Ireland for their first major tournament in a decade only two years on from being edged out of the World Cup 2010 play-offs by the slenderest of margins, when Thierry Henry's infamous handball helped France past the Irish.

Trap is not going to win any plaudits from the aesthetes for his style of play, which relies on a defensive steadfastness, a combative midfield and pace on the flanks.

Ireland are truly a reactive team rather than a proactive one but so long as they are taking their place in major competitions then Trapattoni can stave off the critics.

THE CAPTAIN | ROBBIE KEANE

The Ireland No.10 comes up with the goals for his country when others simply cannot. Keane is dripping in international pedigree even if his club career has been quite muted in contrast.

Disappointing spells at Inter and Liverpool only serve to illustrate the dichotomy between Keane for country and Keane for club. But only four currently active players have scored more international goals than Robbie Keane; Didier Drogba, Samuel Eto'o, Stern John and Miroslav Klose, and only Hakan Suker and Jon-Dahl Tomasson have scored more in European Championship qualification campaigns.

He is the type of player who lingers on the shoulder of the last defender and bides his time in the penalty box to react first and plunders goals against all levels of opposition.

Now 31, the former Inter forward will not have many more international tournaments but the Irish will miss him when he's gone. 

THE STAR PLAYER | SHAY GIVEN


Gone are the days when Ireland could turn to a talisman like Liam Brady, Paul McGrath or Roy Keane to facilitate their passage through tough matches.

Trapattoni's Ireland are workmanlike and are difficult opponents on the strength of the collective rather than individual parts.

That said, against top-level opposition, the Boys in Green are occasionally reliant on Shay Given to bail them out.

The 36-year-old has only conceded twice in his last seven competitive internationals and Ireland's reputation as a defensively parsimonious team stems from Given's dependability.

The Aston Villa goalkeeper is a world-class shot-stopper; his principal weakness being a tendency to struggle under the high ball.

Nonetheless, the veteran of over 120 caps is one of the finest of his generation and is showing few signs of slowing down.

THE EMERGING TALENT | JAMES McCLEAN


Despite representing Northern Ireland at the Under-21 level, James McClean is now a rising star for the Republic of Ireland going into Euro 2012, although he did not play in any of the qualifying matches.

The 23-year-old's impressive displays for Sunderland in 2011-12, during which he scored five times in 23 Premier League games, saw him catch the attention of coach Giovanni Trapattoni, who handed the winger his debut in February as a substitute for Aiden McGeady.

The Italian boss then confirmed the player's presence at Euro 2012 in May, before giving him his first start in a 1-0 friendly win over Bosnia & Herzegovina.

McClean now has a great chance to put his name on the map in Poland and Ukraine, having already quickly risen to prominence among the national team's ranks.


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