How can Ireland qualify for Euro 2016?
Things couldn't have gone any better for the Republic of Ireland last Friday night. They secured the three points and a healthy goal difference against Gibraltar, whilst Poland and Scotland fell away. It means that our chances of a play-off spot go from not very likely to quite a decent chance. Even Martin O'Neill is getting excited, claiming that automatica qualification isn't beyond Ireland.
What are the permutations now? How can Ireland qualify for Euro 2016? Is there a way around having to win against Germany in October? We will aim to find the least demanding route to the European championships.
As a quick reminder, the qualifying criteria is as follows:
- There's eight groups of six teams and one group of five.
- The top two from each of these go straight through to the finals. Simple so far.
- The best third placed team also qualifies but only when the results against the sixth placed teams are discarded.
- The remaining eight third-placed teams are drawn into four two-legged play-off games with the winners qualifying.
Here is how Ireland can qualify for Euro 2016
The Current Standings In Group D:
Ireland's Final Three Games In Group D:
7th Sept: (H) v Georgia
8th Oct: (H) v Germany
11th Oct: (A) v Poland
We'll look at both scenarios - how can Ireland qualify automatically, and how can Ireland qualify for the playoffs:
How Can Ireland Qualify Via The Playoffs:
The Republic of Ireland's record in playoffs isn't fantastic. World Cup 1998 and 2010 are big sore points that stick out in memory - but the playoffs were the route to our last two major tournaments - World Cup 2002, and Euro 2012.
As the third placed team, Ireland are in the playoffs should they remain where they are. The biggest (read:only) threat to falling below third is if Scotland manage to pass us in the final three games.
Scotland's last three fixtures:
7th Sept: (H) v Germany;
8th Oct: (H) v Poland;
11th Oct: (A) v Gibraltar
Of course, if Scotland win all of those games - Ireland would need to do likewise to remain ahead of them. But with both countries playing both Germany and Poland - the chances of that happening would appear to be slim.
The key game is Ireland's home fixture against Georgia. Should O'Neill's men get the victory then simply matching whatever Scotland do against the top two will secure third place.
Of course, should Ireland slip up in any way, then we've lost our advantage that we claimed on Friday - and need to better Scotland's results against Poland and Germany by two points, as the Scots won the head-to head tie-breaker between us.
That's how Ireland can qualify for the playoffs.
How Can Ireland Qualify Automatically For Euro 2016:
Poland's Remaining Fixtures:
7th Sept: (H) v Gibraltar
8th Oct: (A) v Scotland
11th Oct: (H) v Ireland
Let's make two assumptions from the off: the first being that Poland and Scotland will both beat Gibraltar, and that Germany will beat Georgia in their final game.
Given the huge risk associated with anything other than a Germany win for Scotland, we can forget about passing the Germans for top spot, as those two wins for them will mean that they are two far ahead of us even if we win all three of our games.
This means we will be targeting Poland for second place. Is there any way Ireland can lose to Germany and still come second? Actually there is, but it would require a series of things to go our way including one risky draw between Poland and Scotland.
Once Ireland get through the tricky Georgia game with a win, that would mean a win of any sorts against Poland puts them level with the Poles on 18 points. Ireland would win the head to head tie break against Poland after the first draw in Lansdowne Road. Should that game end in a draw, Ireland would still have enough points to finish third.
The moral of the story is that Ireland can qualify by taking four or five points from their remaining games - once Scotland doesn't shock either Poland or Germany with a win. Should Ireland pull off that shock win, then second place becomes a reality we can dream of.
That is how Ireland can qualify for Euro 2016.
Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE