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15th Nov 2019

Why a Switzerland-Georgia draw is bad news for Ireland

Rob O'Hanrahan

Abacuses out, lads.

Ireland are top of Group D, but have the most to do in order to progress. Georgia play Switzerland this evening at 7:45 Irish time… And you would think Ireland would want a favour from the Georgians. But they really don’t.

First off, an unlikely Georgian win doesn’t actually change Ireland’s task on Monday. For the sake of both of our sanities, these permutations below assume Switzerland and Denmark will both beat Gibraltar.

  • Switzerland play Gibraltar in their final game, and as a result will be on a minimum of 14 points.
  • Denmark, playing Gibraltar this evening, will come to Dublin with 15 points and sitting pretty on top of the table.
  • Ireland’s 12 points means their task is simple. They must beat Denmark to go through without facing a playoff. With a better head to head against Denmark, if Ireland win, they would then take second place and an automatic qualification berth.

That all changes if Switzerland and Georgia draw.

A draw will see Switzerland likely finish on 15 points. If Ireland beat Denmark, Ireland would also finish on 15 points. As for Denmark, you guessed it, would also land on 15 points. With all three teams level on points, the following criteria come into play;

If two or more teams in the same group are equal on points on completion of the final tournament group stage, the following criteria are applied, in the order given, to determine their rankings:

a. higher number of points obtained in the matches played among the teams in question;

b. superior goal difference resulting from the matches played among the teams in question;

c. higher number of goals scored in the matches played among the teams in question;

So, if Georgia draw with Switzerland, as is entirely possible considering they have already taken points off both Ireland and Denmark, these criteria will then come into play if Ireland beat Denmark. As it stands, with only one game left to play between Ireland, Switzerland and the Danes, this”mini-pool” would look like the below;

Mini-pool as it stands before Ireland v Denmark

So… a win for Ireland against Denmark would put the three teams once again level on points. That brings goal difference into play. But, thankfully for Ireland, it only counts between the three teams.

Let’s assume Ireland scrape an incredible, brave and spirited 1-0 win over Denmark after a last-gasp Shane Duffy header. Being as positive as can possibly be, that’s the most likely way the unlikely scenario will play out. The mini-table would then look like this;

Mini-pool if Ireland beat Denmark 1-0

So, Ireland would actually still end up in third place even if they beat Denmark by one goal, should Switzerland draw against Georgia. Which would mean that beating Denmark by any means is no longer an option for Mick McCarthy’s side. Ireland would have to beat Denmark by two goals.

Boiling all the above down to one sentence;

If Georgia draw with Switzerland tonight, Ireland must beat Denmark by two clear goals in order to qualify.

A tough task could get even tougher.

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