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Here's how Ireland could still qualify for Euro 2020 if they lose to Denmark

The Boys in Green are likely to get another chance even if they fall short at the Aviva Stadium next month.

Ireland huddle.
Ireland huddle.
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

IRELAND HAVE ONE remaining Euro 2020 group qualifier against Denmark on 18 November.

On the assumption that other results go as expected — Switzerland and Denmark both beat Gibraltar — then Ireland must win to avoid finishing third in the group and thereby failing to qualify automatically.

However, even if they drop points against the Danes, Ireland’s hopes of qualifying for the Euros are unlikely to end there.

The Boys in Green could yet qualify via the play-offs.

How this works is complicated enough, so bear with me.

Each league in the Nations League is allocated one of the four remaining Euro 2020 places, with four teams from each league who have not qualified automatically competing for a spot.

If you cast your mind back, Ireland were originally one of 12 teams put in League B of the Nations League.

The other sides in League B were as follows: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ukraine,  Denmark, Sweden, Russia, Austria, Wales,  Czech Republic, Slovakia, Turkey and Northern Ireland.

You can obviously rule out Denmark on the assumption that they qualify ahead of Ireland. Russia and Ukraine have guaranteed their places at next year’s Euros. Bosnia and Sweden have guaranteed at least a play-off spot after winning their respective groups.

The other teams that have already qualified are Belgium, Spain, Italy and Poland, all of whom are in League A.

To be guaranteed a play-off spot, Ireland need 15 higher-ranked teams to qualify.

A fair bit of speculation is required in terms of expected results, but the following teams look likely to qualify automatically as it stands: England, Czech Republic, Portugal, Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Switzerland, Croatia, Hungary, Sweden, Austria, Turkey, France and Finland.

As per Uefa guidelines: “If a League does not have four teams to compete (say, for example, if ten of the 12 League A teams qualify automatically), the remaining slots are allocated to sides from another League in accordance with the overall Uefa Nations League rankings.”

At the moment, every team from League A apart from Iceland are well positioned to qualify automatically, meaning there will be more spots for teams from the lower tiers.

According to Uefa, the current standings are as follows (the teams in bold are guaranteed to feature in the play-offs):

Path A: Switzerland, Iceland, Bulgaria/Israel/Romania*
Path B: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Wales, Slovakia, Northern Ireland
Path C: Scotland, Norway, Serbia, Bulgaria/Israel/Romania*
Path D: Georgia, North Macedonia, Kosovo, Belarus.

*In the current scenario, a draw would decide which of Bulgaria, Israel or Romania would fill the empty slot in Path C, and which two would go into Path A.

Of course, those rankings do not take into account the fact that Switzerland will almost certainly beat Gibraltar and qualify automatically, with Ireland looking more likely to have to settle for third spot.

If that occurs, Ireland would likely slot into Path B, with Bosnia, Slovakia and Northern Ireland among the possible opponents, though it depends on which teams qualify automatically.

Keep in mind too that Nations League group winners cannot be drawn against a team from a higher league. Hence, with none of the four expected to qualify automatically, Path D is very likely to feature Georgia, North Macedonia, Kosovo and Belarus, all of whom won their respective Nations League groups.

The semi-finals for the ties will take place on 26 March, with the final set for 31 March.

Per Uefa: “The highest-ranked team in each path will play the country ranked fourth, with the nations placed second and third contesting the other semi-final.

“Unlike previous play-offs, these will be single-leg knockout matches, with the highest-ranked teams hosting each semi-final. The host for each path’s play-off final will be drawn in advance on 22 November 2019.”

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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