Thursday 23 November 2017

Ireland need these teams to find way into play-off on final night of qualifiers

Jonathan Walters scores from the penalty spot during the 2-1 defeat to Poland in Warsaw.
Jonathan Walters scores from the penalty spot during the 2-1 defeat to Poland in Warsaw.
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

The Republic of Ireland will need a selection of results to go in their favour on the final night of Euro 2016 qualifying matches if they are to snatch a seeding in Sunday’s play-off-draw.

The outcome of Monday’s games saw Russia, Slovakia seal their passage to the finals in France next summer, with a handful of permutations still to be decided in the last batch of matches on Tuesday.

With eight teams competing in the play-offs, UEFA’s national team coefficient ranking system will decide who is seeded for the play-offs and there are a couple of wild cards in the mix that could allow Ireland to snatch a berth among the top four ranked sides.

If the play-off draw was to be made right now, Ireland would be the sixth ranked team taking part and would not be seeded, but there is still a faint hope that the picture could change.

Essentially, Ireland’s dreams of a seeding rest on the outcome of the final games in Group B and Group H and we need these results to materialise if we are to stay in the mix:

(i) Cyprus beat Bosnia-Herzegovina at home and Israel to fail in their bid to beat an already qualified Belgium side.

Those two results would see Cyprus leap above Bosnia and Israel to claim third place in their group, which would move Ireland up one place to fifth in list of teams that will compete in the play-offs. A draw between Cyprus and Bosnia would also be good news for Ireland if Israel win in Belgium and claim a play-off spot, but don’t hold your breath on that happening.

(ii) Norway to lose in Italy and Croatia to win away in Malta.

That scenario would see Croatia hop above Norway to seal automatic qualification to Euro 2016, leaving the Norwegians (who are ranked below Ireland) to drop into the play-offs.

While Croatia may be favoured to get the job done and progress in Group H, the notion that the pieces of the Cyprus jigsaw will slot into position for Ireland seems fanciful at best.

One final matter that needs to be resolved on Tuesday night will be which nation claims the automatic qualifying position as the best third place finisher across the fine groups.

Results against the bottom side in each Euro 2016 qualifying pool do not count in the qualifying table for this prize and as it stands, Hungary are on course to land the last remaining ticket to Euro 2016 at this phase of the competition.

Yet that could change if Turkey beat Iceland at home on Tuesday night and Kazakhstan secure an away win against Latvia to move off the bottom of Group A. The more likely scenario is a Turkey side getting the point they need and edging Holland out of Euro 2016 after their disastrous campaign.


TEAMS CURRENTLY IN THE PLAY OFF POSITIONS (provisional UEFA ranking in brackets)

Ukraine (12)

Sweden (13)

Croatia (14)

Bosnia-Herzegovina (15)

Denmark (21)

Ireland (22)

Slovenia (25)

Turkey (26)

In conclusion, Ireland need these teams to find a way into the play-off on the final night of qualifiers:

* Israel (28) or Cyprus (45) to claim third place in Group B ahead of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

* Norway (24) to be knocked out of the automatic play-off places and forced into play-off action.

* Turkey to fail in their bid to progress as the best third place finisher and draw with Iceland.



Confirmed Euro 2016 qualifiers: France (hosts), Iceland, Czech Republic, Belgium, Wales, Spain, Slovakia, Germany, Poland, England, Switzerland, Northern Ireland, Romania, Austria, Russia, Italy, Portugal, Albania.

Already in the play-offs: Republic of Ireland, Ukraine, Slovenia, Sweden, Denmark.

The draw for the play-offs will be held this Sunday at UEFA headquarters in Nyon at 10.15am Irish time.

First legs are to be played from 12-14 November and second legs on 15-17 November.

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