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Permutations: What Ireland need to do to qualify for Euro 2016 knockout stages

Finishing as one of the best third-placed teams seems the most likely way of progressing.

Table2

DOWN BUT NOT out.

But with just one game left to play, Martin O’Neill’s Republic of Ireland side face into an anxious final fixture with the unbeaten Italians.

So, what do they need to happen to ensure a place in the knockout stages.

The basics:

With the expanded tournament, only eight sides get eliminated from the group stage. The top two from each group make it through, as well as the best four third-placed teams.

Right now, Ireland are bottom of Group E thanks to their -3 goal difference.

And even with Sweden ahead of them, Erik Hamren’s team are the worst-ranked in the mini-group of third-placed sides.

Right now, sealing third place seems the most realistic proposition for O’Neill’s side.

And here’s why.

Finishing as runners-up:

Firstly, victory is necessary against the Italians if Ireland want to go through in second-place.

But they also have to hope that Sweden do them a favour and beat Belgium.

And here’s where it gets complicated and why today’s 3-0 loss is such a blow.

Republic of Ireland v Belgium - UEFA Euro 2016 - Group E - Stade de Bordeaux Source: Chris Radburn

Sweden are two goals better off when it comes to goal difference.

So, if both Sweden and Ireland win their final games, Ireland need to win by two more goals than Sweden beat Belgium by – and that’s to draw level on everything, essentially.

So potentially, going by tiebreaker criteria set out by Uefa, second place could be settled by ‘fair play conduct’.

Permutations

As of right now, Ireland have picked up three disciplinary points and Sweden two.

Finishing as one of the best third-placed teams:

If Ireland beat Italy and Sweden, who have been quite dismal, fail to get past Belgium, Italy and the Belgians will qualify first and second, leaving Ireland in third on four points.

From the current state of affairs, that should be enough to get them through.

Gazing into a crystal ball somewhat, Ireland should be joined on four points by Romania from Group A and the Czech Republic or Croatia from Group D.

With the final round of games still to be completed in Group F, we’ll have a much better view of things once those results are in the bag.

Because of Ireland’s 3-0 defeat today though, they’re likely to be either the third or fourth of the best-ranked sides.

Soccer - FIFA World Cup 2010 - Play Offs - Second Leg - France v Republic of Ireland - Stade de France Could there be another meeting with the French in Lyon? Source: Mike Egerton/EMPICS Sport

And that could mean a round of 16 tie against the winner of Group A (likely France) or the winner of Group D (likely Spain).

If Ireland draw with Italy and Belgium beat Sweden, it’s incredibly unlikely that two points will be enough to see them through as a best third-placed team.

There’s still plenty of football left but without a win against Italy, everything is null and void for the Irish.

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About the author:

Eoin O'Callaghan

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