Before the start of the European qualifiers we put together a post outlining the different scenarios which would result in Ireland's safe path through to France and Euro 2016. We were quite pleased with ourselves, there were stats, tables and it was all very scientific(-ish).
The only problem was that it was all dependent on the assumption that the world champions would play like the world champions. In their last two qualification campaigns, Germany dropped a grand total of two points, cumulatively. The final standings from those qualifying campaigns were intimidating reading to say the least.
Like the rest of the country, we looked at that and assumed first place was out of the question and we continued on our way. However, we're now three games in and the group as it stands is not exactly what we had imagined it would be.
Thanks to Germany's lethargy, Poland's defensive solidity and John O'Shea, we've had to take a stab at re-imagining the possibilities now that first place is potentially up for grabs.
What do we need to come 1st?
At the start of the campaign we needed a miracle. Three games in, we may not need a miracle anymore, but we should still be keeping our feet on the ground. If we were to claim top spot you would imagine something like this would be needed.
That's probably best case scenario and we could potentially drop one or two more points off that and still come out on top. However, you would have to expect that the early results have given Germany a much needed kick up the arse. Added to the fact that they should have their best players back for most of the remaining games, we're going to keep this scenario in the pipe dream file and continue on.
What do we need to come 2nd?
When you look at the average points requirement from the last two qualifying campaigns, we found that 14 points (when the results against the bottom teams were discarded) was the magic number to pretty much guarantee qualification. However, given that Group D contains three very evenly matched teams who were, in theory, battling it out for second, there was always the possibility that the 14 point mark was unnecessarily high.
If Germany had marched their way to top spot, 18 points in total could potentially have been enough to nab second. However, now that Die Mannschaft are dropping points like nobody's business, it makes second spot that much harder to predict.
Rather than 30 points claiming first and 18/19 points (with Gibraltar spankings included) claiming second, it could now conceivably end up as 21/22 claiming first, 19/20 claiming second and 17/18 claiming third. Having said that, we're tentatively sticking with our previous prediction here with the addition of that glorious point against Germany.
We're still going to assume that the Germans will get things together from here and finish the group with somewhere around the the 22/23 point mark. That leaves us, Poland and Scotland still fighting for second. This scenario would leave us on 21 points total and 15 when the results against the bottom teams are discarded. That's one more than the previously assumed magic number of 14, but with a group this tight, it might just be needed.
What do we need to come 3rd (and qualify)?
We went into the pot as second seeds so really this should be the minimum required from Martin O’Neill’s men. However, in reality, we’re quite evenly matched with Scotland and Poland so it’s far from guaranteed.
Given their win over Germany, we're going to elect Poland as our biggest competition for second place (if the Germans get their act together). So that leaves a straight shoot out with the Scots for third. If it comes down to that, the head to head results will be crucial.
All being well, a draw in Scotland and three points back at the Aviva should give us the edge over Gordon Strachan's men as long as they don't start taking unexpected points from the remaining fixtures against Germany and Poland.
A third place finish would most likely leave us at the mercy of the play-off draw (the best third place team, when results against the bottom teams are discarded, get straight through to the tournament). Considering that there’s no guarantee of another Estonia situation, a second place finish would be very nice indeed.
See also: Here’s what Ireland need to do to qualify for Euro 2016 - The original
Tables via uefa.com
Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE