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Permutations: What Needs To Happen For Ireland To Qualify For Euro 2020


Originally published on June 13.

The next edition of the European Championships will be held in 12 cities across the continent.

On June 15, 2020, Dublin will host the first of four Euro 2020 games, and if the Republic of Ireland qualify, they will play two group games at the Aviva Stadium. However, despite currently sitting top of their qualification group, that could be a big ‘if’. The stakes are high for the Boys in Green.

So far in Group D, Mick McCarthy’s team have recorded wins over Gibraltar and Georgia, and played out a draw with Denmark. But the hard work begins in the autumn. It’s not an exact science, but here is what needs to happen for Ireland to qualify for Euro 2020. Of course, they could just win all of their games – but let’s be realistic about it.

Firstly, here is the Group D table as it currently stands. The top two qualify automatically for the final tournament next summer.

Euro 2020

And here are the remaining fixtures for the Boys in Green:

Ireland v Switzerland, September 5.

Georgia v Ireland, October 12.

Switzerland v Ireland, October 15.

Ireland v Denmark, November 18.

McCarthy’s side are top of the table with 10 points from 12. However, it is fair to say that Ireland have got the easier fixtures out of the way already – other than the trip to Copenhagen to play Denmark. They have played Gibraltar twice and Georgia at home, winning all three ties. The difficult part begins in the autumn.

It could be argued that the table puts Ireland in something of a false position. Switzerland have two games in hand due to their participation in the Nations League finals, and Denmark have to play Gibraltar again.

Euro 2020

In his post-match press conference following the Gibraltar game, McCarthy said he didn’t want to be disrespectful to them.

But, without any disrespect intended, they are going to lose their remaining games against Switzerland and Denmark. So really, the top of Group D should look this after the games against Gibraltar are completed:

  1. Denmark – 11 points.
  2. Switzerland – 10 points.
  3. Ireland – 10 points.

Switzerland’s goal difference is currently two behind Ireland. After their games against the team ranked 195th in the world, that will change and they would move ahead in the table if the two sides are level on points.

Georgia are a decent team, much better than Gibraltar. But, they have lost to Ireland, Switzerland and Denmark in the group already. For argument’s sake, let’s imagine that the same occurs in the reverse fixtures.

If so, here is how the group table would look after the top-three sides have beaten Georgia and Gibraltar home and away:

  1. Denmark – 14 points
  2. Switzerland – 13 points.
  3. Ireland – 13 points.

Euro 2020

So, if all goes to plan, qualification should come to down to a mini-group between the three highest-ranked nations in the group.

Already in the qualification campaign, Ireland drew 1-1 with Denmark, who drew 3-3 with Switzerland. There is a strong chance that those results will be replicated in the corresponding fixtures – as Denmark and Switzerland are evenly matched and Ireland almost always draw with Denmark.

The games that are more difficult to predict are the ones between Ireland and Switzerland. The Swiss are a more talented team, and you would imagine McCarthy would take a draw in both games – particularly the one in Geneva in October.

Euro 2020

Let’s say that happens, and Ireland gain two points from the two games against the Swiss and then draw with Denmark (again). Let’s also say that the Danes draw with Switzerland in October.

If all of this happens, then this is how the table would look at the end of the campaign:

  1. Switzerland – 16 points.
  2. Denmark – 16 points.
  3. Ireland – 16 points.

Euro 2020

If this all occurs, Denmark will gain another 11 points – leaving them with 16 points. Switzerland will win another 12 points – leaving them with 16 points. And Ireland will gain a further six points – leaving them with 16 points. At this point, goal difference will come into play and that would be bad news for Ireland.

So, the task for the Boys in Green is to beat Georgia – that is non-negotiable – and not lose to their main rivals – avoiding defeat is paramount. However, to finish in the top two places in the group, Ireland will need to either:

  • Win one of their three games against Denmark and Switzerland.
  • Hope that Denmark v Switzerland does not end in a draw.

If, for example, Switzerland were to beat Denmark in Copenhagen on October 12, and Ireland play out three draws against the two nations, the table would look like this:

  1. Switzerland – 18 points.
  2. Ireland – 16 points.
  3. Denmark – 15 points.

Euro 2020

If Denmark beat Switzerland, and Ireland draw their three upcoming games against their main rivals, here is how the table would look:

  1. Denmark – 18 points.
  2. Ireland – 16 points.
  3. Switzerland – 15 points.

So, a draw between Switzerland and Denmark in October would be bad for Ireland – as it would leave all three teams with 16 points and goal difference would be used to decide the top two places. Ireland, unfortunately, are unlikely to outscore their rivals.

Euro 2020

However, if McCarthy’s team beat one for their main rivals – let’s say Denmark – and play out two draws with Switzerland, who in turn draw with Denmark, this is how the table would look:

  1. Ireland – 18 points.
  2. Switzerland – 16 points.
  3. Denmark – 15 points.

But, this may be asking for too much. Ireland’s best chance may be aiming for six points from their remaining four Group D matches and hoping that someone else – most likely Switzerland – do them a favour.

The play-off route through the Nations League may also be open to Ireland – the explanation of how that works is definitely something for another article. So, all hope may not be lost if the team do not finish in one of the automatic qualification places.

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