Football

Northern Ireland Defeat Is A Major Boost For Ireland's Euro 2020 Hopes

Northern Ireland Defeat Is A Major Boost For Ireland's Euro 2020 Hopes

However poorly you believe the Republic of Ireland have fared in this inaugural UEFA Nations League, that easily forgotten 0-0 draw with Denmark in the Aviva Stadium could well put Martin O'Neill's side in a stronger position when qualifying for the 2020 European Championships becomes a more immediate concern.

With Northern Ireland rounding off their own Nations League campaign with fourth defeat in as many games against Austria tonight, the Republic of Ireland find themselves primed for a playoff spot that hitherto seemed unlikely.

A scenario that will only come into play if Ireland fail to qualify from the standard qualifying rounds that precede the European Championships themselves, O'Neill's side are now almost certain to be guaranteed a playoff spot via their Nations League finish.

To combat the rambling complications of the UEFA Nations League structure, this has to be sifted through carefully.

Basically, 20 teams will qualify for the 2020 European Championships via the traditional qualifying route; 10 groups from which the top two in each qualify. This leave four spaces available to fill the 24-team tournament. These are to be determined via results in the UEFA Nations League.

A four-league competition, each of League A, B, C and D will theoretically put forth four teams to contest these finals playoffs; each league having one playoff winner that will qualify for the European Championships.

Given that most of the 24 teams assigned to League A and B are likely to make up most of the 20 teams that qualify via the traditional route, those playoff places are handed down to the next highest ranked teams.

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At the moment, Ireland are theoretically ranked as the 23rd side in the UEFA Nations League; Northern Ireland, with 0 points, rock bottom.

With a majority of the other 10 teams in League B likely to go through automatically in the qualifying competition to come, the Republic of Ireland are now almost certain to reach one of the four playoff places League B has to offer.

From here, any potential four-team playoff is likely to be made up of Ireland, perhaps another team or two from League B, or potentially some sides from League C.

For Northern Ireland, although they are likely to make a playoff, they could have to fill up a space in League A where there is the potential to be at least one or two of the big teams remaining.

This will all rest on the provision that 6 teams from Leagues C & D don't make it through the qualifying groups automatically.

What all this means for a side that can't score goals isn't exactly clear, but it does mean Ireland may have some games of consequence in March 2020.

Not the easiest system to understand (believe me), you can watch a quick explanatory video here

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Arthur James O'Dea

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