Permutations: Ireland look for unlikely seeding turnaround
Ireland are on course to be unseeded in next Sunday's draw for the Euro 2016 play-offs, barring a strange combination of results in the three remaining groups that are up for decision this evening.
Here's the three scenarios that Ireland need to happen:
A favourable turnaround in this group is actually likely. Assuming that current third-placed side Croatia are capable of winning away in Malta, second-placed Norway will need to win away to group leaders Italy to avoid dropping into the play-off battle.
In that event, they would be ranked below Ireland in the UEFA co-efficient.
This is a group which highlights the significant difference between a draw and a win in UEFA’s format. Turkey sit third, two points ahead of a Holland side with an inferior head to head record.
Therefore, a draw at home to already qualified Iceland would seal third spot. In that scenario, they would be ranked behind Ireland.
But if they achieve their goal by securing three points then they would move ahead of the Boys in Green in the final co-efficient standings. On top of that, if Kazakhstan also beat Latvia in their group tonight, Turkey would then go through as best third placed team dropping Hungary back into the playoff picture where they would be seeded ahead of Ireland. In short, a draw is the only result that will suit Ireland.
If Turkey lose, and Holland beat the Czech Republic, the Dutch would join the party as a seeded team. Incredibly, three points in that game would give them the highest co-efficient tally of all 53 UEFA nations because they performed so well in their last two qualification campaigns.
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If they flop, and Holland beat the Czech Republic, the Dutch would join the party as a seeded team.
Incredibly, three points in that game would give them the highest co-efficient tally of all 53 UEFA nations because they performed so well in their last two qualification campaigns.
Plenty can happen in a pool where Wales and Belgium are already on their way. To put it in simple terms, Ireland will be hoping that Bosnia lose third position tonight. They are away to Cyprus, who can overtake them if they produce the performance of their lives.
That would be enough for third if Israel failed to win in Belgium. A draw in Cyprus and a shock triumph for Israel would also push Bosnia out of the equation.
It's extremely hard to see all three outcomes going Ireland's way. The added complication is that one or two coming to pass will affect the shape of the seeded pot.
In truth, the best-case scenario which leaves Ireland unseeded would involve Croatia and Turkey securing automatic qualification, putting Sweden, Bosnia, Hungary and Ukraine as the four seeded sides.
O'Neill would have reason to be encouraged by that field.