Six games. Six games left in Group D that will leave Ireland in one of three scenarios.
- We'll be flying through to France in 2016
- We're at the mercy of a seeded play-off draw
- We're out of everything and Martin O'Neill is more than likely out of a job
Here's the all important fixtures (all important as long as you ignore the first one).
(Times listed are CET so take an hour off for Irish time)
And here's the group as things stand.
So, how can we qualify automatically?:
Win both our remaining games and that would guarantee it. Given our performances so far, that may be stretching things a bit. Having said that, Germany have looked fallible so if we could remain tight at the back, which we have been, there is a possibility that we could catch them on the break and snatch a win. It's unlikely but it's not impossible.
If that did happen, then we would head to Warsaw in an enviable position. Depending on how the result between Scotland and Poland pans out, we may only need a draw against Poland to book an automatic qualifying spot. Similarly a draw against Germany and a win over Poland would also see us through if Scotland can do us a favour in Glasgow on October 8th.
It sounds very simple but, in reality, it's still a bit of a stretch. Considering that we've found it very difficult to score, we're going to keep expectations realistic.
So, how can we qualify via a play-off?:
First thing's first, we need to ensure we finish third. Scotland will finish with a minimum of 14 points thanks to their remaining game with Gibraltar. That means Ireland's prospects of guaranteeing third are largely linked to the Scotland vs Poland clash.
A win for Poland and we're guaranteed third. A draw would mean that (owing to the Scots better head to head record) we need to pick up at least a point from our final two games. A win for Scotland would open up the possibility of automatic qualification but it would also mean that we need at least two points from the games against Germany and Poland.
Let's imagine one of those things happens and we finish in third which seems the most likely outcome at this moment in time. What then?
It's time for the lottery of the play-off draw. Only it's not quite as much of a lottery as it might have been. UEFA have confirmed that the draw will be seeded (top four teams drawn against the bottom four teams) and that may or may not be good news for Ireland.
Here's the ranking of third place teams as things stand with Croatia currently lying in the automatic qualification spot as the best third placed team.
UEFA's coefficient ranking is a lot kinder to Ireland than the FIFA rankings are. That means we are in with a decent chance of finding ourselves in the top half of the draw. As things stand, the rankings see Croatia, Ukraine, Hungary and Russia ranked ahead of us. With three of those teams sitting on 12 points (after results against bottom placed teams have been discarded) it seems likely one of them will gain automatic qualification, thus boosting Ireland into the top half of the draw.
Obviously things can change in the respective groups rather dramatically but, if things continue in a similar manner, drawing Estonia out of the hat once again is far from an impossibility.