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Why are Ireland and other third-place teams now allowed to qualify for the Euros?

For the first time ever, 24 teams will compete at the European Championships next summer.

Uefa president Michel Platini was one of the main men behind the 24-team idea.
Uefa president Michel Platini was one of the main men behind the 24-team idea.
Image: AP/Press Association Images

Updated at 18.20

ONE OF THE first indications that Uefa were considering changing the Euros format to 24 teams cropped up in 2013.

During an interview with Martin Samuel of the Daily Mail, Uefa head Michel Platini explained: “I think it was a good idea. The only problem of the 24 are the qualifications. It will be less interesting.”

The idea was subsequently pressed through, with FAI chief John Delaney understood to be one of the idea’s main instigators.

The initiative drew criticism in some quarters, with Daniel Taylor of The Guardian in January 2014 writing:

“The draw takes place in Nice on 23 February and, put bluntly, it is going to be the most boring qualification process in the history of the sport. France’s involvement means there will be nine groups of six and the top two from each will qualify in line with the tournament’s expansion from 16 to 24 teams, rather than just the one-team rule that made England’s World Cup qualification a test of both endurance and nerve.”

However, Platini defended the idea back in September after underdogs such as Iceland, Wales and Northern Ireland overperformed at the expense of some bigger countries, telling reporters:

“The decision to expand was taken in the interest of promotion and development of football in Europe.

“We have been delighted with the positive impact the new format has had on national team football across the continent.

“We have seen extremely competitive groups with several teams fighting for qualification, a high quality of football played and great enthusiasm in several nations who have never or rarely qualified for a major tournament.

“The European qualifiers have been a success so far and we are sure the final tournament in France next year will be the most competitive to date.”

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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