The two duels that will determine whether Ireland qualify for Euro 2024 playoffs
As things stand, the playoffs would appear to be Ireland's best chance of making it to Euro 2024.
Remember the very beginning of Stephen Kenny's reign, when we lost to Slovakia on a penalty shoot-out? Those were the 2020 playoffs and that was the first of two hurdles.
We fell, and as a result didn't make it to Euro 2020.
If we're to make it to Germany 2024, then, with France and the Netherlands likely to take the two automatic qualifying places, then the playoffs could well offer us one final chance.
What are the playoffs?
Twelve teams will contest the 2024 Euro play-offs, in three separate mini-tournaments.
These 12 teams are chosen based on a combination of their performance in the 2022/2023 Nations League as well as the identity of the teams that qualify automatically for the tournament.
Ireland's performance in the Euro 2024 group stages does not affect their chances of making these playoffs.
The 2024 playoff finals are taking place between March 21 and 26 2024, with the three winning teams joining the tournament's 20 automatic qualifiers plus hosts Germany.
Will Ireland make the playoffs?
If the groups ended right now, the answer is no. Based off the projections of future fixtures, the answer is more than likely yes.
To put it simply, seeing as Ireland are 26th in the Nations League rankings, and with five lower ranked teams looking set to qualify for the playoffs, they would need 19 higher ranked teams, Germany included, to qualify directly for the Euros to make sure that they are part of the remaining seven teams that make up the 12.
Just as an explainer, Path C teams mentioned below Georgia, Greece and Kazakhstan all look set to qualify for the playoffs because they won their Nations League groups. Ireland were only third in theirs', behind Scotland and Ukraine, but our ranking serves us well.
Based on our latest projections, we'd have the EURO 2024 playoffs as follows:
Draw for A/B
— We Global Football (@We_Global) September 9, 2023
We get how confusing that is to read, it was even more confusing to write but we'll try and flesh it out below.
Basically, the more higher ranked teams than Ireland that qualify directly for Euro 2024 through the group stages, the better. There are two groups, I and E, that will basically determine Ireland's fate.
Take the clash of Israel (ranked 17) and Romania (ranked 29) in Group I on Saturday night.
They drew, which means that Romania are currently one point ahead of Israel in the table, and occupying an automatic qualifying spot. Ireland need Israel to win that dual, due to our superior Nations League ranking on Romania.
If Romania win that dual, then we are in bother. The same goes for Albania and Poland's dual in Group E. Albania are currently ahead of Poland by one point and it would be in Ireland's best interests for the Polish to finish ahead of them, due to our superior ranking to Albania.
Ireland could also do with Wales overturning Turkey in Group D, but sitting as they are six points behind them, this looks hugely unlikely.
Now let's hope it won't come to this, that Ireland will end the confusion and just qualify automatically.
Apologies in advance for the Sunday morning headache.
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