Confused about the Euro 2020 qualifiers? Here's an explainer for Sunday's draw in Dublin's Convention Centre
THE groups for the Euro 2020 qualifiers will be drawn this weekend, and if you were bamboozled by the intricacies of the Nations League you are going to love this.
Here Independent Sport does its best to explain what is going to happen.
When and where is the draw?
The draw will take place at the Convention Centre in Dublin from 11am on Sunday. As you will see as you read on, it could take some time.
Where are Ireland seeded?
Although UEFA are not using the word this time around. the make-up of the pots of teams was determined by finishing positions in the Nations League. Ireland are in Pot 3 after suffering relegation from the second tier.
What about England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales?
England are one of the four teams in the Nations League Pot after reaching the finals of the competition, which means they will be placed into any one of Groups A-D and be handed four other opponents from Pots 2-5. The other six top-ranked teams will be in Pot 1 and will compete in Groups E-J.
Wales, who will remain in League B after finishing second in their group, are in Pot 2, while Northern Ireland join Ireland in Pot 3 after also being relegated from Nations League B. Scotland are also in Pot 3 despite earning promotion from League C.
How many groups will there be?
This may sound like East Fife 4 Forfar 5, but please stick with us... The 55 participating nations will be split into 10 groups, five with five teams and five with six teams. Four of the five five-team groups will include those countries who topped their Nations League A group to ensure there is room on their fixture lists for the Nations League Finals next summer.
What might a nightmare Group look like for Ireland?
With Germany dropping to Pot 2 after their Nations League relegation, everyone will be hoping to avoid them. A group of World Champions France as top seeds, Germany, Cyprus, Macedonia and Liechtenstein could bring back bad memories from some of our worst ever results.
What's a best case scenario?
Poland's draw against Portugal in their last Nations League game put them into Pot 1 at Germany's expense. A group with Poland, Iceland, Estonia, Gibraltar and San Marino would certainly give Mick McCarthy something to aim at.
Will any countries be kept apart for any reason?
With 12 nations playing a role in hosting Euro 2020, nobody qualifies automatically but those involved will be given every chance to make it. To that extent, no more than two host nations - Azerbaijan, Denmark, England, Germany, Holland, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Romania, Russia, Scotland, Spain - can be in any one group. Steps will also be taken to ensure Spain and Gibraltar, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo, and Kosovo and Serbia, are kept apart. Additionally, to minimise travel, UEFA has placed some restrictions on the number of teams from the western side of Europe who can be drawn to face Kazakhstan or Azerbaijan, or from southern Europe to face Iceland, but we really do not have the space for all of that here.
A simple answer at last. The top two teams in each group will be playing at Euro 2020.
When will the matches be played?
The 10 matchdays will be spread across the five international windows in 2019, with fixtures in March, June, September, October and November.
How does the Nations League dovetail into the traditional qualifying phase?
Seamlessly, of course. It is actually not as complicated as it first appears, though that is not to say not at all. The Finals will take place in June, with the four nations involved (England, Netherlands, Switzerland and Portugal) playing fewer qualifiers to ensure they are free to take part. Additionally, each of the four divisions in the Nations League gets one place at Euro 2020, to be determined by play-offs that will be played in early 2020. The teams that won their Nations League groups will contest the play-offs, unless they earn a place through the qualifiers in which case the play-off place will go to the next team in their league rankings. Got it?
When will the Euro 2020 qualifying play-offs be?
The play-off draw will take place on November 22 next year, with the play-offs themselves taking place in March 2020. The semi-finals will be on March 26-28 and the finals on March 29-31. The play-offs will be one off games rather than the traditional home and away format. The highest ranked team will be at home in the semi-final with a draw to determine who has home advantage for the final.
Where will the Euro 2020 finals be played, and what dates?
The finals will take place from June 12 to July 12 2020, with matches being played throughout Europe. As listed above, Ireland will be joined by Azerbaijan, Denmark, England, Germany, Holland, Hungary, Italy, Romania, Russia, Scotland, Spain in hosting matches, with the semi-finals and finals at Wembley.
Coming Soon: Independent.ie's new GAA newsletter. Sign up here