Noel King's side have been given a tough draw
The Republic of Ireland Under-21 have learned their draw for the 2019 Under-21 qualifying group stage which was made in Nyon this morning.
Noel King's side have been grouped with Germany, Norway, Israel, Azerbaijan and Kosovo. The Kosovans will come to Ireland for the opening fixture in Group 5 on March 25th.
The nine qualifying groups for the 2019 UEFA European Under-21 Championship in Italy and San Marino include a record 54 teams and the nine group winners will qualify automatically for the finals. The four runners-up with the best records against teams first, third, fourth and fifth in their group will go into the play-offs and be drawn into two ties to decide the last pair of qualifiers.
"Germany are a torment for any team but when is it ever an easy draw? In the last qualifiers they played ten and won ten. We have played well against them in the past without getting a point but some of our underage teams over the years have got results against them," said King.
"The rest of the teams in the group are no mugs. Norway are a huge challenge, Israel are an excellent side and Azerbaijan beat Russia 3-0 in the last competition. Kosovo are a new team and I'm sure they will be very patriotic so will be a tough test for everybody.
"We feel we can be competitive in this group. I feel there are teams we can beat in this group and I include Germany in that - on the right day obviously.
"We've an opening game against Kosovo and that'll be their first ever U21 game so it's going to be tough. It's a new campaign - everybody has to be up for it. We’ve retained a lot of players from the last campaign, six or seven of them have that experience which is a new one, and we've got to be positive going into a campaign."
The fixtures have been provisionally agreed as follows:
March 25: Ireland v Kosovo
September 5: Azerbaijan v Ireland
October 5: Ireland v Norway
October 9/10 (TBC): Ireland v Israel
November 14: Norway v Ireland
March 27: Ireland v Azerbaijan
September 7: Kosovo v Ireland
September 11: Ireland v Germany
October 11: Israel v Ireland
October 16: Germany v Ireland