The Republic of Ireland have just three games remaining in their Euro 2020 qualification campaign.
Ireland play Georgia on Saturday in Tbilisi before travelling to face Switzerland in Geneva next Tuesday. They finish their campaign against Denmark in Dublin on November 18.
The good news is, ahead of Saturday’s game, Ireland are two points clear at the top of Group D after five games played with 11 points. Denmark are in second place with nine points from five matches and Switzerland are in third, with eight points from four games. The bad news, from an Irish perspective, is that it could still go wrong and qualification is far from guaranteed.
Here is how the group table currently looks. The top two automatically qualify for the tournament next summer. If teams are level on points at the end of the campaign, the tiebreaker will be decided by head to head records.
And here are the remaining fixtures for the top three in the group:
Georgia v Ireland
Denmark v Switzerland
Switzerland v Ireland
Denmark v Gibraltar
Switzerland v Georgia
Gibraltar v Switzerland
Ireland v Denmark
Here is how the top three will look after Switzerland beat Gibraltar in their game in hand.
And here is how the group table will look when Denmark beat Gibraltar in their second game against the minnows.
This is the true reflection of the group table, as every side in the group will beat Gibraltar.
Denmark dropped points against Georgia in a goalless draw last month, so their fate will be determined by their games against Switzerland and Ireland. The Swiss arguably have the upper hand in the group. They still have to play Ireland and Georgia at home, before they wrap up their qualification campaign away to Gibraltar.
Here is how the group would look after we factor in potential results against Georgia. In this scenario, Ireland and Switzerland have both beaten Georgia.
However, this task will be more difficult for McCarthy’s team than for the Swiss, as they must play in Tbilisi, where Georgia took points off Denmark last month and have caused Ireland trouble in the past.
It now comes down to the remaining games between the top three, where Ireland must avoid defeat – that is non-negotiable. As it has been all along, this is a mini-group between the three teams.
First, let’s say Ireland beat Georgia and draw with the Swiss. If that happens, here is how the table would look:
Should Ireland play out draws with Denmark and Switzerland – and, let’s face it, big Ireland matches tend to finish 1-1, so it’s likely to happen – here is how the group table would look.
All that remains now is to factor in the result between Denmark and Switzerland. If they play out another draw – they recorded a 3-3 draw in March – here is how the table would look:
If the Swiss win the game, here is how the table would look:
And if the Danes win, here is how the table would look:
However, let’s say Ireland beat Georgia, draw with Switzerland and then lose to Denmark. Let’s also say the game between Denmark and Switzerland ends in a draw. If that happened, here is how the table would look:
So, from their remaining three fixtures, Ireland must:
Win two games, or avoid defeat and win one game.
No matter what, they must win at least one of their next three games.
The best-case scenario is Ireland win two games.
The worst-case is they fail to win and are leapfrogged by their two rivals.
The most positive, but realistic, scenario is Ireland beat Georgia before drawing with Switzerland and Denmark.
Switzerland beating Denmark would be an excellent result for Ireland. If that happens, and Ireland beat Georgia earlier in the day, McCarthy’s side would only need a point in their final game against Denmark.
However, If Ireland were to beat Georgia and Switzerland, they would be on 17 points and assured of qualification. Simple.
Yet, even if McCarthy’s team do not reach Euro 2020 by finishing in the top two, qualification is still possible through the Nations League play-offs, which can be explained here.
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