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Permutations: What Ireland Have To Do To Qualify For Euro 2016

Gary Reilly
By Gary Reilly
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Here's the short version:

  1. Beat Poland and we qualify.
  2. Draw 2-2, 3-3, 4-4 etc. and we qualify.
  3. Lose or draw 0-0/1-1 and we're into a play-off

After that things get rather more complicated and, as things stand, that play-off option is not looking very good.

There are three tables we need to keep an eye on ahead of Sunday. The first one is fairly obvious. The Group D table is looking fairly incredible from where we're standing and it could have been even better had it not been for Robert Lewandowski's last minute goal against Scotland.

The win against Germany meant we were guaranteed a play-off spot, which is why there was a fair bit of confusion in the stadium when news of Lewandowski's second goal of the night came through. Essentially that goal means that our trip to Warsaw on Sunday gets a little bit more difficult.

Here's UEFA's criteria for separating teams.

a. higher number of points obtained in the group matches played among the teams in question;

b. superior goal difference from the group matches played among the teams in question;

c. higher number of goals scored in the group matches played among the teams in question;

d. higher number of goals scored away from home in the group matches played among the teams in question;

e. if, after having applied criteria a) to d), teams still have an equal ranking, criteria a) to d) are reapplied exclusively to the matches between the teams in question to determine their final rankings. If this procedure does not lead to a decision, criteria f) to j) apply;

f. superior goal difference in all group matches.

All that means that to leapfrog Poland and get an automatic qualification place we have to either win in Warsaw or draw 2-2, 3-3. 4-4 etc.


That's the ideal situation but if we lose or draw 0-0 or 1-1, then it's down to the rather more complicated play-off route. The first thing that needs to be said is that we can't possibly come top of this table and gain an automatic place courtesy of being the best third placed team.

The only way we could do that would be to beat Poland and that would mean we wouldn't need to qualify via third spot so we can forget about that.


(Note that results against the bottom placed teams have been taken out of this as per the rules)

Now it's all about the seedings. If we are to finish third in Group D, it means we'll have to be one of the top four seeds of the remaining eight if we're to get another favourable play-off draw like we did with Estonia. That means it's all down to the third and final table, the UEFA coefficient.

Here's how it currently stands:


That will be updated again after Sunday's games. However, it means that as things stand, Ireland would be one of the top four seeds and we'd face one of Turkey, Slovenia, Israel or Albania. Not an easy game by any stretch of the imagination but still better than Ukraine, Croatia or Sweden.

The important thing is that, after last night's results, only Hungary, Romania, Ukraine and Slovakia can finish top of the third place table. That's a good thing for Ireland. The bad news however is that, in reality, we'll probably end up not being seeded. Here's why..

Here's the breakdown group by group.


Group A 

This is a big one for Ireland potentially. Czech Republic and Iceland are through. On Friday night, Turkey take on Czech Republic while Netherlands face Kazakhstan. On Monday, Turkey host Iceland while Netherlands travel to the Czechs.

Ideally we're looking out for Turkey here. Netherlands getting that final place would royally mess up our seedings hopes, and it would potentially mean a play-off against them. We still wouldn't like to meet Turkey but for seeding purposes, we're fully behind them here.

 Group B


In this scenario, we're all about Israel as Bosnia are ahead of us in the coefficients. It's Israel vs Cyprus on Friday while Bosnia host Wales and on Monday, it's Belgium vs Israel and Cyprus vs Bosnia. If Wales can stop Bosnia, we're hopeful here.

Group C

Both Slovakia and Ukraine are ahead of us in the coefficients so it's much of a muchness here. It all depends on who you'd rather face if you don't get seeded, we'd prefer Slovakia.

Group E

More than likely Slovenia or Estonia here. Estonia getting through again would be nice though.

Group F

Hungary are currently going through as best third place team. But their final game on Sunday is against Greece and considering that they're last, any points Hungary get won't be counted in the third place table. That means that only Hungary, Romania or Ukraine can finish in that spot. That's good news for Ireland as it means one of them will definitely be taken out of the seedings equation.

Group G

This is an intriguing one. Sweden face Moldova and Liechtenstein in their last two games so they're in with a good chance of automatic qualification. Montenegro face Austria and a trip to Russia, for the sake of simplicity, we're going to disregard their chances even if it's not mathematically impossible. Russia face Moldova and Montenegro.

Russia and Sweden are both ahead of us in coefficients so it's a toss of the coin on this one as well.

Group H

This one could affect things significantly. Croatia are ahead of us, Norway behind us. Italy face Azerbaijan tonight, Norway face Malta. On the final day, Croatia host Malta and Norway travel to Italy. You have to think Croatia are getting six points there.

That could be good news for Ireland. If Italy take points off Norway on Monday, then the Norwegians drop down to third and there's one less higher ranked team to worry about.

Group I

Another very dodgy one for Ireland's hopes of a seeded place. Denmark are finished, Albania have to play Armenia knowing that a win will take them through to France. That's bad news for Ireland as Denmark are ranked ahead of us.

Although all of this is very much dependent on the updated coefficients, Group A and I mean that Ireland hopes of a seeded place are currently looking quite unlikely. That would mean that we could have the likes of Netherlands, Ukraine and Croatia waiting for us.

What we're taking form all that is that it's all very complicated. So do us a favour chaps and just beat the Poles and it makes it all very simple.


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