Ireland’s opening two results for the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign has made it extremely unlikely that Stephen Kenny and his team will be playing in Qatar come next winter. For many, this will mark another major tournament that they will not be able to attend to support the Boys in Green. While some supporters are more results orientated, others might prefer for Ireland to play a more attractive brand of football and then there is the middle ground who would like a half-way house of the two. In order to compare Kenny’s Ireland team to what has come before him, it is useful to look at how Irish teams have fared in previous qualifying campaigns.
Today’s post looks at the fortune of Irish teams throughout qualifying campaigns from World Cup 1986, up to and including the recent Euro 2020 (2021) campaign under Mick McCarthy. In total, the results of 167 qualifying games are examined. Play-off games are not taken into account. Figure 1 plots the distribution of score lines. To interpret, a score of 2-2 in a game would have a difference of 0, while a 3-1 win would have a difference of 2 and a 2-1 loss would have a difference of -1.
As can be seen from the below, nearly 4 in 10 Irish qualifying games (35.2%) end in a draw. This is then followed by a one goal difference win.
We can also examine this by seedings and draw some interesting insights. Table 1 below expands on the graph above but breaks results out by seedings. Note prior to looking at this we should note that across different qualifying campaigns the number of teams in a group differ. Of the 17 qualifying campaigns examined, in 7 cases there were 5-team groups, in 9 cases there were 6-team groups and on 1 occasion it was a 7-team group.
Of the most frequent results against opposition teams the following are the most frequent results:
Top seeds - Draw followed by one goal winning margin.
Second seeds - Draw followed by one goal losing margin.
Third seeds - Draw followed by a one goal losing margin.
Fourth seeds - Draw followed by a one goal winning margin.
Fifth seeds - One goal winning margin followed by a two and three goal winning margin.
Sixth and Seventh seeds - Two goal winning margin followed by a draw and three goal winning margin.