Sunday 17 December 2017

Guide to the other groups

There are nine groups, with the winners going straight to the finals along with the second-placed team with the most points. Considering two groups have just five teams, results against the worst team will be discounted from calculations for the runners-up in the six-team groups.

Meanwhile, the other eight runners-up will meet in the dreaded play-offs. They will be ranked according to their UEFA coefficient which is drawn from results in the three previous qualifying campaigns.

This leaves Ireland with an outside chance of being seeded, with emerging nations like Bosnia and Montenegro in a weakened position. Here, we look at the situation in the other groups as they reach their conclusion.

GROUP A

Qualified: Germany

Likely Runners Up: Turkey.

Also in Contention: Belgium

Germany have won all their qualifying games and have already booked a place to stay next summer. They will be formidable World Cup opponents for Ireland. Turkey have edged into a strong position.

GROUP C

Qualified: Italy

Likely Runners Up: Serbia

Also in Contention: Estonia/ Slovenia/Northern Ireland

Italy have continued their impeccable qualification record, while Serbia have leapfrogged into second spot in the group. They face Italy at home before travelling to Slovenia. If they fail to win either of those games, then Estonia could creep into the picture. Northern Ireland need to beat Estonia and Italy and pray for a miracle.

GROUP D

Likely Winners: France

Likely Runners Up: Bosnia & Herzegovina

Also in Contention: Romania

It really looks like being a shootout between France and Bosnia on the last day in Paris. They play Albania and Luxembourg respectively in the penultimate round of the group. Even the French can't mess this one up.

GROUP E

Likely Winners: Holland

Likely Runners Up: Sweden

Also in Contention: Hungary

The Dutch are already qualified because they would be top runner-up if they finished second, but, in reality, they are home and hosed. A win against Finland would guarantee the runners-up place for the Swedes and they will fancy their prospects of claiming the best second-spot prize.GROUP F

Likely Winners: Croatia

Likely Runners Up: Greece

Croatia and Greece are really the only two teams in the mix. The Croats visit Greece next and a win would wrap up their place. A draw and a last-day success over Latvia would book the ticket. A win for the Greeks and they will finish up requiring three points from Georgia.

GROUP G

Likely Winners: England

Likely Runners Up: Montenegro

Also in Contention: Switzerland

A draw for England in Montenegro will book their ticket to the finals. However, if they lose, Montenegro could overtake them if they see off Switzerland four days later. Yet if Montenegro lose to England, the Swiss could skip into the play-off with wins in their final two games.

GROUP H

Likely Winners: Portugal

Likely Runners Up: Denmark

Also in Contention: Norway

Hard to predict. Portugal, Denmark and Norway are tied on 13 points. The Norwegians have a game less, but Portugal and Denmark meet on the final day. If they've both won their previous games, Portugal would need a point to top the group. Yet, a win for Denmark would leave the Portuguese in danger of missing out.

GROUP I

Qualified: Spain

Likely Runners Up: Czech Republic

Also in Contention: Scotland

Spaniards are well in control. Much will depend on their attitude in the final two games; where they play both the Czechs and the Scots. To make the play-offs, Scotland need to pick up three more points from their trips to Liechenstein and Spain than the Czechs manage at home to Spain and away to Lithuania.

Sweden, Denmark and either Greece or Croatia look to have a strong chance of taking the best runner-up spot.

Considering all are ahead of Ireland in the UEFA coefficient, that's good news for Ireland's prospects of being seeded if they do end up in a play-off situation. With the permutations just about favouring Sweden coming out as the best runners-up, let's take them out of the play-off equation.

Therefore, from the above predictions, the second-placed teams entering the play-off pot would be Turkey, Serbia, Bosnia, Greece, Montenegro, Denmark, the Czech Republic and -- if Group B runs to form (which seems like an unwise prediction) -- Ireland.

Based on a preliminary calculation of the co-efficient, those second-placed teams would be ranked as follows:

Greece 31825

Denmark 30313

Serbia 29005

Czech Republic 28148

Turkey 27836

Ireland 27268

Bosnia & Herzegovina 27118

Montenegro 23626

Where does this leave Ireland? Well, they'd quite like if two of the teams with higher coefficients dropped out of the picture. Serbia's alternatives -- Slovenia and Estonia -- are ranked below Ireland. So are Belgium and Norway, who could replace Turkey and Denmark respectively.

An unlikely Scottish fightback to skip above the Czech Republic would also be good news. A bit more luck will be required.

Irish Independent

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