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Permutations: What Ireland Need To Do To Qualify For Euro 2020

The Republic of Ireland’s Euro 2020 qualification hopes were kept alive on Thursday night thanks to David McGoldrick’s late goal.

The Sheffield United forward popped up with a stunning header to give Ireland a 1-1 draw against Switzerland at the Aviva Stadium. The Swiss had earlier taken the lead through Fabian Schär and looked set to deal a serious blow to Ireland’s qualification hopes.

However, Mick McCarthy’s side still have their destiny in their own hands with three games remaining in Group D. Here is the group table after Ireland’s 1-1 draw with Switzerland and Denmark’s 6-0 victory over Gibraltar.

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

Georgia v Ireland, October 12.

Switzerland v Ireland, October 15.

Ireland v Denmark, November 18.

Ireland are top of the table with 11 points. But, it could be argued that the table puts them in a false position, as Switzerland have two games in hand due to their participation in the Nations League finals. The Swiss still have to play Gibraltar twice, which will see them gain another six points and improve their goal difference. Denmark also have to play the group minnows again.

So really, the top of Group D should look this after the games against Gibraltar are completed:

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

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Switzerland’s goal difference is currently two behind Ireland. After their games against Gibraltar, who are ranked 195th in the world, that will change and they would move ahead of McCarthy’s team in the table.

Georgia are a decent side, 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 – 14 points.
  3. Ireland – 14 points.

So, if all goes to plan, qualification will come to down to a mini-group between the three highest-ranked nations in the group. Ireland drew 1-1 with Denmark and 1-1 with Switzerland. The Danes also drew 3-3 with Switzerland. McCarthy’s side play Switzerland next month and Denmark in November.

Let’s say they gain a point 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.

If this all happens, goal difference will come into play and that would not be a good thing 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 in their remaining games – avoiding defeat is paramount. However, to finish in the top two places in the group, Ireland will need to either:

  • Win one of their two 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 played out two draws against the two nations, the table would look like this:

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

If Denmark beat Switzerland, and Ireland draw their remaining 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, will not outscore their rivals.

However, if McCarthy’s team beat one for their main rivals – let’s say Denmark – and play out another draw 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 five points from their remaining four Group D matches and hoping for a positive result from the game between Switzerland and Denmark.

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