The qualification campaign for Euro 2020 will conclude this week as 20 places at the finals will be confirmed along with the 16 nations to be given a second chance to make up the last four places via the playoffs.
For most of Europe’s national teams, the situation remains in the balance with only six nations guaranteed a place at the finals, with the last round of qualifying to be played this week. There are 10 qualification groups made up of either five or six teams with the top two teams from each group qualifying for the finals.
In addition, the last four places will be decided via playoffs, to be played in March and that’s where things get complicated. Unlike previous qualifying tournaments, the playoff spots are decided on results from last season’s Nations League competition.
The Nations League divided the European nations into four leagues dependent on ranking with the top tier playing each other in league A, made up of four divisions of three teams. The same format was repeated in leagues B, C and D with the 16 divisions (four from each of the four leagues) each producing a winner who was guaranteed a place in the playoffs.
Where this gets complex is most of the top performing teams from leagues A and B of the Nations League groups are likely qualify for Euro 2020 without needing a playoff. Therefore, their places in the playoffs goes to the next ranked team from their League. This trickle-down effect will continue until each League has four playoff teams providing a mini tournament (or pathway) to the finals.
In the event of less than four teams from a League needing a playoff (as seems likely from League A), the remaining playoff place(s) will be filled by the highest-ranked team from the next league down. However, the four division winners are exempt from being ‘pushed up’ to a tougher playoff path.
The current playoff picture is illustrated below:
While the playoff picture is murky, the qualification groups will conclude over the next week. Here is the state of play in each group:
England are the overwhelming favorites and will win the group if they beat Montenegro at Wembley. In fact, a draw will be enough to qualify. Second-placed Czech Republic will qualify if they beat third-placed Kosovo at home, while Kosovo themselves will make it if they beat the Czechs and then draw with England.
Both England and Kosovo are guaranteed playoff berths should they need one. The Czechs are well placed to claim a playoff and Bulgaria are currently in, but if Finland drop into the playoffs, Bulgaria could be sweating on a place. Montenegro are already eliminated.
Update 14/11: England won the group after 7-0 win over Montenegro. Czech Republic also qualified after 2-1 win over Kosovo. Kosovo confirmed in playoff pathway D.
Ukraine have already qualified and Portugal will join them if they beat Lithuania and Luxembourg this week. If Portugal slip up, Serbia could overtake them with two wins. That scenario seems unlikely, but Serbia are guaranteed a playoff spot. Luxembourg meanwhile will be keeping a close eye on Group A. If Kosovo qualify from that group, then Luxembourg will be in the playoffs. Lithuania are already out.
Update 17/11: Portugal beat Luxembourg 2-0 to qualify for Euro 2020, Serbia are confirmed in playoff path C.
Both Holland and Germany are at match point to qualify. If both teams manage at least a draw against Northern Ireland, they both qualify. Northern Ireland need to beat both Germany and Holland to overhaul either into the top two.
With that scenario unlikely Northern Ireland will make the playoffs, unless at least three additional teams who placed above them in the Nations League drop into the playoff places. Fourth-placed Belarus are guaranteed a playoff while bottom team Estonia are out.
Update 16/11: Germany qualify after beating Belarus 4-0. Netherlands also qualify after 0-0 draw with Northern Ireland.
The close three-way battle in Group D will conclude this week. Switzerland will make it with wins over Georgia at home and away against Gibraltar, however defeat in either game will see them loose control of their destiny
Denmark will also move above Ireland with a home win over Gibraltar. That will mean Denmark need a draw in their final game away to Ireland to qualify. A win for the Irish could see them qualify at Denmark’s expense. In the event of all three teams finishing level points, Switzerland will qualify and Ireland would need to beat Denmark by 2 goals to go through.
Switzerland, Denmark and fourth placed Georgia are guaranteed a playoff spot. Ireland will almost certainly get one should they need it. Bottom team Gibraltar are out.
Update 15/11: Switzerland require a draw against Gibraltar to qualify after 1-0 win over Georgia. Denmark require a draw against Ireland after 6-0 win over Gibraltar
Croatia will guarantee their place with a draw or better in their final home game against Slovakia. However, defeat could see Slovakia and Hungary move above them. For Slovakia to qualify, they need to take a minimum of six points from the trip to Croatia and home match with Azerbaijan. Anything less and they need other results to go their way.
Hungary need a win in their final game away to Wales, but would miss out if Slovakia win both their games. A draw and they need Slovakia to pick up less than three points; defeat likely pushes them out. For Wales, they must win their last two games away to Azerbaijan and home to Hungary, and hope Slovakia drop at least two points.
Croatia, Wales and Slovakia should be comfortably in the playoffs if required. Hungary are currently on the bubble if they miss out in the group. Bottom-placed Azerbaijan retain only a slender playoff chance.
Update 16/11: Croatia win Group E after beating Slovakia 3-1. Wales beat Azerbaijan to set up three way battle on match day 10 to qualify, along with Slovakia and Hungary.
Three-time Champions Spain have already qualified. Second-placed Sweden lead Romania by just one point ahead of their head-to-head in Bucharest. A draw should see Sweden through with a home game against Faroe Islands, completing their schedule. Romania need the win and then will likely need to win away to Spain to qualify. Norway are still just in the race and should win their last two games against Malta and Faroe Islands. However, their slim chances will be finished if Sweden win either of their games.
Sweden and Norway are guaranteed playoff places. Romania are currently in the playoffs, but if just one higher ranked teams from the Nations League drops into the playoffs, they will be eliminated. Basement dwellers Faroe Islands and Malta are both already eliminated.
Update 15/11: Sweden have qualified after 2-0 win over Romania. Norway confirmed in playoff path C.
Poland have already qualified and Austria will join them if they pick up at least two points from a home game against North Macedonia and away match in Latvia.
Should Austria blow it, North Macedonia, Israel and Slovenia all retain a chance of overhauling them, but must win both their remaining games. North Macedonia must beat Austria by at least three goals in Vienna and then beat Israel at home. Even then, a Austria win in Latvia trumps them. Israel must beat Poland and North Macedonia and Slovenia must beat both Latvia and Poland. Both teams also require Austria to lose both their games.
In the unlikely event they drop into the playoffs, Austria are almost certain to qualify. North Macedonia are guaranteed their spot, whereas Israel should be fine. Slovenia will be eliminated alongside bottom team Latvia.
Update 16/11: Austria qualify after 2-1 win over North Macedonia who will play in playoff path D.
Surprise leaders Turkey will qualify with a point at home against Iceland. France are almost home too, as a home win over Moldova will be enough. They also secure a spot with a draw followed by another against Albania. Iceland rest on winning both their remaining games, starting with a trip to Istanbul to face Turkey and need other results to go their way.
France and Turkey should make the playoffs if required, and the same applies to Iceland. Albania, Moldova and Andorra have all been eliminated.
Update 14/11- Turkey qualified for the finals after a 0-0 draw against Iceland. The result also confirmed France’s qualification ahead of their fixture with Moldova
Everything is already settled in Group I. Belgium and Russia have comfirmed their qualification places, Scotland will be in the playoffs via pathway C. Cyprus, Kazakhstan and San Marino are all eliminated. This week’s qualifiers are now glorified friendlies.
Italy have already qualified. Finland will seal their place with two points from a home match with bottom-placed Liechtenstein and an away game to Greece. Should Finland pick up only a point, Bosnia and Herzegovina could overtake them with wins over both Italy and Liechtenstein. Armenia could also make it in theory, but require Finland to lose both games.
Bosnia are assured of a place in playoff pathway B and Finland in path C. Greece would currently miss the playoffs, but require only team ranked above them to qualify in order to edge into the playoffs. Armenia retain only a slender playoff hope and Liechtenstein are already out.
Update 15/11: Finland have qualified after a 3-0 win over Liechtenstein. The result means Bosnia will be in playoff pathway B and Armenia are eliminated.