On June 18th, I put together an article concerning the UEFA Euro 2016 qualifying tournament, the results from the matches so far and what I thought would happen in the remaining games. I planned to re-visit it when qualifying was finished to give you the final tables, who’s qualified, who hasn’t and who needs the play-offs, which I will do, however it deserves another update now.
Of the 9 groups, 8 have 6 teams and 1 has 5. The majority of the sides have played two games over the last week and have 2 remaining to play next month (the exception is obviously the five team group). When we last saw the tables, only France, as hosts, had qualified. Now, however, a few more nations have joined them and it’s impressive because some of them are nations you don’t particularly associate with major finals.
So, this article will detail the results from this week as well as outline fixtures and potential scenarios going into the final round of qualifying. As a reminder, the top 2 countries will qualify automatically for the finals, with the 3rd being classified by amount of points won against the top 5 clubs in their group. The best of these will qualify for France, the remaining 8 will go into the play-offs to decide the final 4 places. Finishing 4th, 5th or 6th means you have no chance of playing in France.
In June, Iceland were top with Czech Republic second and Netherlands in third. Turkey, Latvia and Kazakhstan followed in that order. Nothing had been decided except that Kazakhstan couldn’t finish in the top 2 positions of the group.
As it stands: Iceland, Czech Republic, Turkey, Netherlands, Latvia, Kazakhstan
The upshot of those results is that Iceland have qualified for their first ever major tournament and Czech Republic have joined them. Netherlands remain on 10 points and have been overtaken by Turkey for third spot. Latvia and Kazakhstan have both been eliminated and can no longer qualify.
Turkey are on 12 points, Netherlands, as I said above, are on 10. Due to the 3-0 victory in Konya, should they finish level on points then Turkey would finish 3rd ahead of the Netherlands. With everything else decided, the scenarios for this group is simple. Netherlands need to finish with more points than Turkey.
On paper, and given how the group has unfolded, it looks more likely that Netherlands will finish 3rd. Turkey have to play both the qualified groups from the division whereas Netherlands have a seemingly easier trip to Kazakhstan. However, Netherlands are making a royal mess of this group and it wouldn’t surprise me to see them continue that.
Very much like group A, all that had been decided in June was that Andorra, the 6th placed side in group B, couldn’t finish in the top 2 positions. World-Cup debutants in 2014 Bosnia were struggling in 5th, behind Cyprus and Israel in 4th and 3rd respectfully. Those 3 were separated by only a point, and were 2 behind Belgium in 2nd and 4 behind Wales in 1st.
As it stands: Wales, Belgium, Israel, Bosnia, Cyprus, Andorra
Wales and Belgium are now both guaranteed a finish inside the top 3 (meaning at least one will automatically qualify). Only Israel, in 3rd, can now spoil their party. The best Bosnia and Cyprus can hope for is 3rd place, while with 8 losses and -27 goal difference, it is no surprise that Andorra won’t be hopping over the border to France next summer.
Wales, 5 points ahead of Israel, only need a win to guarantee qualification although could do it with a draw should Israel lose at home to Cyprus. Despite not being guaranteed, given that both Belgium and Wales play win-less Andorra, they should sew up first and second. All that remains to be seen is in what order they do it!
Cyprus are four points behind Israel so need to win when they visit Jerusalem. Any other result will mean they can’t finish 3rd, leaving only Bosnia and Israel. I can’t really call this group. Bosnia have two winnable games however Wales still need to guarantee qualification so won’t roll over in Zenica. It looks like Israel need to beat Cyprus, heading to Belgium for the final round won’t be easy.
Following June’s matches, Slovakia were top with a 100% record over the 6 games and were already guaranteed of at least 3rd place. Spain were 3 points behind in 2nd, 3 ahead of Ukraine in 3rd. Belarus were 8 points behind in 4th, 1 point ahead of Macedonia. Luxembourg could only hope for 3rd although that looked unlikely as they propped up the group with 1 point.
As it stands: Spain, Slovakia, Ukraine, Belarus, Luxembourg, Macedonia
Slovakia have stalled, only collecting one more point since we last saw the group and have been overtaken by Spain for first. Luxembourg’s win over Macedonia, combined with Ukraine’s over Belarus, eliminated the 3 teams lagging behind in this group. Ukraine, Slovakia and Spain will all finish in the top 3 places – the only questions are in which order and who will be going to France automatically.
Spain need a win to qualify and will almost definitely do that on the 9th with an easy match against Luxembourg. Slovakia remain 3 points ahead of Ukraine and will hope to remain that way going into the final fixtures where they unquestionably have the easier match. Slovakia should finish 2nd, Ukraine 3rd however Luxembourg have already shown themselves not to be push-overs.
Gibraltar sat bottom with 0 points in June with only a vague hope of reaching 3rd spot. Georgia were teetering close to elimination with only 3 points and it was a four-horse race between Republic of Ireland, Scotland, Germany and Poland. Ireland were the side missing out in June, residing in 3rd place. It’s all changed…
As it stands: Germany, Poland, Republic of Ireland, Scotland, Georgia, Gibraltar
Germany are now guaranteed at least 3rd spot, Poland and Ireland could still finish anywhere from 1st to 4th while the best Scotland can hope for is 3rd spot. Despite a magnificent win over the Scots, Georgia have been eliminated. They have been joined by Gibraltar, who have a goal difference of -44.
Ireland could, and arguably need to, halt the German qualification party in Dublin on the 8th. Scotland absolutely need to beat Poland, and have to hope that Ireland don’t beat Germany. Should the Irish beat the Germans, the group will be decided in all but exact placing. As a side note, should Ireland and Scotland both win in those first fixtures, then Germany will be on 19 points, Ireland 18 and Poland 17.
Germany should seal qualification at the latest on the 11th, while Poland have a home match v Ireland to guarantee theirs. From a British perspective, the best we can hope for is Germany beating Ireland, Ireland beating Poland and Scotland winning both their matches. That would see Germany finishing top, Ireland second and Scotland third due to their victory over Poland.
England were the second team to have a 100% record from 6 matches and were on the brink of qualification. No team was out and all could finish in the top 2 but San Marino in last with 1 point looked a little adrift. From the bottom up, Lithuania, Estonia, Slovenia and Switzerland were all in with a chance of qualification – indeed, only 6 points separated them.
As it stands: England, Switzerland, Slovenia, Estonia, Lithuania, San Marino
England sealed qualification and kept their 100% record alive, with the added bonus of seeing Wayne Rooney become their leading goal-scorer of all time thanks to two penalties. San Marino are now out (although at least they finally scored a goal!), and Lithuania’s only hope of qualification is finishing in 3rd. Estonia are 5 points adrift of 2nd, which Switzerland retain thanks to a very late comeback against Slovenia.
It looks like 3 home wins on the 9th October, which would eliminate both Lithuania and Estonia. Slovenia and Switzerland have an equal goal difference played in matches between them and so if Slovenia beat San Marino and Switzerland lose to Estonia then Slovenia will finish in 2nd. This is due to the fact they scored 2 goals in Switzerland and kept a clean sheet when hosting them.
Euro 2004 winners Greece were rooted to the bottom of group F in June. As I said at the time, the group made no sense. Faroe Islands were in 4th, Finland 5th with Hungary, Northern Ireland and Romania leading the group. For those who know football in the 21st century, this came as a massive shock.
As it stands: Northern Ireland, Romania, Hungary, Finland, Faroe Islands, Greece
Northern Ireland would have qualified with victory over Hungary, however the last minute equaliser at least kept them top of the group. Hungary’s 2 draws have kept them in with a chance of finishing in the top 2, whereas Romania’s 2 0-0 draws have stalled their progress. The Faroes and Greece have been eliminated, with Finland being the only other team who can qualify.
N.Ireland are four points ahead of Hungary in 3rd, meaning they need a win to qualify. They should get that with their remaining fixtures (hopefully!), That being said, Hungary and Romania also have fairly easy matches so will all fancy their chances. This crazy group is going right down to the wire.
In June, nothing was decided in group G. All 6 teams could finish in any position, although Austria led the way, followed by Sweden and Russia. Montenegro and Liechtenstein were 3 points behind Russia, Moldova were bottom with 2 points.
As it stands: Austria, Russia, Sweden, Montenegro, Liechtenstein, Moldova
The situation now is that Austria have qualified and Russia have a 2 point cushion in second. Sweden and Montenegro are fighting for 2nd and 3rd with Russia. Liechtenstein and Moldova have been eliminated.
How this group finishes will depend on whether Austria take their foot off the pedal. Montenegro will be hoping so as they have to play them and travel to Russia. The Russians and Sweden have two winnable matches and so it’s perceivable that the table will finish exactly as it is now, i.e. Austria, Russia, Sweden.
Once again, in June no-one was eliminated, qualified, or so far adrift they could only finish 3rd from group H. With one point in last and 4 in fifth, it was unlikely that Malta and Azerbaijan would qualify. At that point, Bulgaria in fourth were only 2 points away from 3rd place Norway. Italy and Croatia were 1st and 2nd, as expected.
As it stands: Italy, Norway, Croatia, Bulgaria, Azerbaijan, Malta
Bulgaria, Azerbaijan and Malta have now all been eliminated, meaning Italy, Norway and Croatia are fighting it out for the top 3 places. However, that situation could change if Croatia lose their appeal against a points deduction for racist behaviour at their match against Italy. Should that appeal be unsuccessful, they will lose a point – allowing Bulgaria the chance to qualify. With two wins, Norway have sprung into second place.
Croatia, at the moment, are only one point behind Norway and have the easier matches so you would expect them to pip Norway to second place. However, any slip up against Bulgaria (who may have the added incentive of being back in contention) and it will almost certainly be the play-offs for a side we are so used to seeing at major tournaments. Norway haven’t qualified for one since 2000. I, for one, am hoping they succeed.
The five team group containing Armenia, Albania, Denmark, Portugal and Serbia was already almost completed in June. Serbia and Armenia were on 1 point each and could only hope for a third place position while Portugal could not finish any lower than 3rd. Denmark and Albania, in 2nd and 3rd, were 9 and 7 points ahead of Serbia and Armenia respectfully.
As it stands: Portugal, Denmark, Albania, Serbia, Armenia
As mentioned in the last post, crowd tensions between Serbia and Albania meant that Serbia were awarded the win but deducted 3 points however this was overturned by the court of arbitration for sport and the win was instead awarded to Albania. So now, Albania gained 3 points for the win but Serbia were still deducted 3 points, meaning their victory over Armenia didn’t count for anything. As a result, Albania are now only 1 point behind Denmark. All in all, Serbia and Armenia have been eliminated with Portugal, Denmark and Albania fighting for the top 3 places.
Denmark look in trouble with their remaining match being Portugal away. Albania play both the eliminated sides and so now look in a good position to qualify, however anything can happen in football.
Euro 2016 is starting to take shape with France, England, Austria, Czech Republic and Iceland already qualified. Some big names like Spain, Portugal, Italy and Germany will surely join them soon however other big names like Netherlands are in serious trouble. This could be a European Championships with many different teams to usual, and that I see as only a good thing.
It’s worth keeping an eye on the British sides. England are through, Wales are all but, Northern Ireland have a great chance and Scotland have an outside one. There is still potential for Britain to be represented by all corners at next years tournament. Another area to keep an eye on is the Scandinavian countries. Iceland are already there, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and even Finland still have a chance.
I’ll return with the finished groups following the final matches in October, as well as having a look towards the play-offs as we’ll know then who the best third placed sides are.