The Republic of Ireland's opening Nations League matches against Bulgaria and Finland gave Stephen Kenny "some food for thought" as he looks ahead to the "bigger picture" of their Euro 2020 play-off.

In Kenny's first two games as manager, Ireland drew in Bulgaria with a late Shane Duffy equaliser on Thursday and then lost 1-0 at home to Finland on Sunday.

But while frustrated not to take the three points in Dublin after a series of misses in the closing stages - including another Duffy header - Kenny's focus was already on a vital meeting with Slovakia.

Ireland must come through that fixture next month and then a subsequent play-off final to qualify for the European Championship in 2021.

For that reason, the Ireland boss was willing to name experimental line-ups – he changed his entire midfield for the meeting with Finland – in a bid to find his best side.

"We wanted to win - my first game at home, of course we wanted to win - but, for us, there's a bigger picture. That's Slovakia." Kenny explained to Sky Sports.

"We were a bit experimental in the games, I think that's evident. We want players to really put their hands up and put themselves in the picture for Slovakia.

"We need to increase our attacking options, for sure, for the game against Slovakia.

"We wanted to do that and some players did quite well. That gives us some food for thought for the game next month."

Having struggled to break Finland down before the break, Ireland preyed on the visitors' sloppiness at the back to muster big second-half chances.

They could not take their opportunities, however, and Kenny reflected: "We probably had four or five really good chances today.

"When you get them, you have to take them. It's as simple as that. We're disappointed, obviously, to lose the game."

The play-offs to determine the final spots for the European Championship are likely to take place in October and November, according to Football Association of Ireland (FAI) CEO Gary Owens.

The coronavirus pandemic led to the postponement of Euro 2020 for 12 months, with the play-off fixtures that were scheduled for March having also been called off.

With no confirmed date for when international football will return, it remains to be seen when those matches will be held.

The Republic of Ireland are among the teams waiting for official confirmation, with Slovakia their opponents and either Bosnia-Herzegovina or neighbours Northern Ireland awaiting the victors.

UEFA held an update with its member nations via teleconference on Tuesday, with FAI chief Owens offering an update on when the play-off games will go ahead after that meeting.

Owens told FAI TV: "There has been a slight move on that [play-off dates]. Originally, we thought it may well be November but it now looks like the semi-final is the preferred option in October.

"They don't want to have the semi-final and the final of the play-offs in the one month. It looks like the Nations League matches will be in September and October, with the semi-final play-off in October and the final play-off in November."

Earlier on Tuesday, UEFA announced it is to produce new guidelines outlining qualification criteria for its competitions from domestic leagues that cannot be completed.

However, the governing body once again recommended competitions should be finished if possible.

Scotland have been drawn against Israel in the Euro 2020 play-off semi-finals.

Aiming to reach their first major finals in 22 years, Steve Clarke's side will face Israel in a one-legged tie at Hampden Park on March 26.

The winner of that match will go on to face either Norway or Serbia in the Path C final five days later.

Scotland beat Israel 3-2 at Hampden Park last November en route to topping their Nations League group and Clarke is after a repeat result in four months' time.

"The draw is what it is," he told Sky Sports News. "I never get too carried away about who you are going to play. 

"It would been nice to repeat the home win, but the match will come with its own level of pressure, which we will have to embrace.

"Being at home is very important for us. I'm sure Hampden will be full, with the Tartan Army on the march. It's a great stadium when it's full, so if we start fast we can get them all behind us."

Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland are on course to meet in the Path B final, having been drawn away to Bosnia and Herzegovina and Slovakia respectively in the semis.

In Path A, Romania travel to Iceland and Bulgaria host Hungary, while Belarus are at Georgia and North Macedonia face Kosovo in Path D.

The four play-off winners will join the 20 teams that have already qualified for the finals, which will take place in 12 different cities next year.

Croatia and Austria each won on Saturday to join Netherlands and Germany in securing their places at Euro 2020.

Both Croatia and Austria came into their latest fixtures knowing only a point was required to reach the finals next year, although Zlatko Dalic's men threatened to make hard work of their progress.

Playing their final qualifier, unlike Austria, who have another against Latvia to come, Croatia trailed at home to Slovakia until the 56th minute.

Robert Bozenik had put the visitors in front, but Nikola Vlasic and Bruno Petkovic scored in quick succession approaching the hour-mark to turn the match on its head.

Ivan Perisic completed a 3-1 victory after Slovakia's Robert Mak was sent off, which sees World Cup finalists Croatia qualify as Group E winners.

Hungary lie second but must visit third-place Wales – just one point back – next week. A draw there would open the door for Slovakia to advance with victory at home to Azerbaijan.

Austria enjoyed a more straightforward outing, beating Macedonia 2-1 to join Poland in the top two in Group G.

David Alaba and Stefan Lainer scored early in each half, meaning Vlatko Stojanovski's 93rd-minute reply mattered not.

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