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Do Ireland have any chance of qualifying for the Euros as the best third-place team?

We look at the possible permutations as the Euro 2016 qualifiers approach their climax.

WHO ARE THE teams currently in contention for the best third-place spot?

They are as follows, in accordance with the third-place guidelines listed below (i.e. not counting results against the bottom team in the group)…

Team                                  Played                              Points
Ukraine (Group C)               7                                           13
Hungary (Group F)              7                                           12
Croatia (Group H)                7                                           11
Albania (Group I)                6                                            11
Ireland (Group D)                6                                            9
Sweden  (Group G)               7                                            9
Slovenia(Group E)                7                                            9
Israel  (Group B)                   6                                             7
Turkey   (Group A)               6                                             6

How is the best third-place team calculated?

The team with the most points across all nine groups who finishes third qualifies automatically for Euro 2016. The other eight teams will face off in the playoffs to determine the remaining four spots for Euro 2016, with four of the sides in question seeded ahead of the draw on the basis of their superior Uefa coefficient.

As Group I only has five teams, the results against the team that finishes last in the other eight groups are discounted (so, for example, Ireland’s wins against Gibraltar would not be taken into account) when determining the best third-place side. If two or more teams are level on points ultimately, then goal difference in the matches against the teams who don’t finish last (except in Group I) determines who gets the coveted Euro 2016 spot, followed by goals scored, away goals scored, fair play ranking, Uefa coefficient ranking and drawing of lots if all else fails.

Do Ireland have any chance of finishing as the best third-place team?

It looks pretty much impossible, as a number of unlikely results would need to occur. As it stands, Ireland would need at least four points from their remaining two matches to have any hope (and they would also need to markedly improve their goal difference).

And even if they succeed in securing four points, their chances of finishing as the best third-place team are not good. For example, Hungary are looking likely to finish third in Group F. They still have to play Faroe Islands (who are unlikely to finish last in their group) at home, with the minnows unlikely to finish last in Group F. If the Hungarians win that game, Ireland would not be able to displace them as the best third-place team.

What’s the good news?

Ireland could qualify automatically anyway. Six points from their final two group games would guarantee a top-two finish. Four points from their last two matches would also put them in a strong position to finish second. More details on the best and worst-case scenarios for Ireland’s final two group games can be found here.

A version of this piece was originally published on 8 September 2015

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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