Heading into the final matchday of the Group Stage of UEFA qualifying, there is still uncertainty about which teams will enter the 2nd Place Play-Offs. Of the 9 groups, only 8 2nd place teams make it. For groups with 6 teams, the matches against the last place teams are removed from the calculation. The teams are then ranked, with the lowest ranked team missing out. There will then be two pots of 4 teams, determined by an upcoming FIFA ranking. Teams will be drawn into four home-and-away pairings to play for a spot in the World Cup.
As of today, September 13th, the 2nd place standings look like this:
There are a few things that are certain as of today, and they are as follows:
- Sweden, who has clinched 2nd place in Group C, will be in the 2nd place Play-offs
- The 2nd place team in Group G, Greece or Bosnia-Herzegovina, will be in the 2nd place Play-offs
- The 2nd place team in Group I, France or Spain, will be in the 2nd place Play-offs
What happens in Group B will dictate much of what occurs with the other groups. Malta has locked up last place in Group B. If Bulgaria, Denmark, or Czech Republic finish in 2nd place in the group, that team will take at most 10 points into the 2nd place standings (16 points max – 6 points from defeating Malta twice). If this occurs (which we feel there is over a 90% chance of happening), the following will also happen:
- Croatia, who has clinched 2nd place in Group A, will be in the 2nd place Play-offs
- The 2nd place team in Group F, Portugal or Russia, will be in the 2nd place Play-offs
- The 2nd place team in Group H, Ukraine, England or Montenegro, will be in the 2nd place Play-offs
Similarly, any of the teams from these groups will clinch a Play-offs spot with just one more point in their final match.
This would leave 3 teams remaining for 2 spots in the Play-offs. They are: the aforementioned Group B 2nd place team, one of Turkey, Romania or Hungary out of Group D, and either Iceland or Slovenia out of Group E. The teams in Group D and Group E have the opportunity to play their way into the play-offs, while the Group B 2nd place winner is completely on thin ice.
First, we’ll take a look at Group D. Should Romania defeat Estonia at home or Turkey defeat Netherlands at home, the 2nd place team will qualify for the play-offs. Additionally, if any team in Group D gets to 17 points while Armenia does not advance from Group B, the 2nd place Group D team will advance to the play-offs.
Group E is a similar situation. If Iceland wins at Norway, they’ll advance to the Play-offs. If Slovenia finishes 2nd with a win over Switzerland, they’ll be in the Play-offs if Armenia doesn’t advance from Group B. Should Slovenia finish 2nd with a draw against Switzerland, things will get a little more interesting.
So, what about the Group B teams? For any team to emerge from Group B and qualify for the Play-offs, they MUST win their final match. Czech Republic has already been eliminated from qualifying because if they finish 2nd, there is no way they could pass any other 2nd place team. So it’s down to Bulgaria, Denmark, and Armenia.
Denmark has done all they can possibly do. Their final match with Malta will be thrown out, so they bring 10 points and a -2 Goal Differential into the play-offs. They truly need an absolute miracle in the form of either Andorra pulling road points at Hungary, and Romania and Turkey getting completely blown out by more than 4 goals. They’re in awful, awful shape. They also cannot pass Slovenia or Iceland out of Group E.
Bulgaria at least has a little bit of say in their fate. To start, they must defeat Czech Republic. If they win by multiple goals, they could pass either the Group D or Group E winner. They certainly need help, but they’re alive. They truly need to score as many goals as possible and hope somebody else throws them a bone.
Armenia is an interesting case because they lost to Cyprus. Should they miraculously win at Italy, which they MUST do to reach 2nd place, they’ll throw this whole thing into a tizzy. It would create far too many scenarios to discuss here. But, because they did lose to Cyprus, they would bring 12 points into the 2nd place standings if they wind up in 2nd place. They’d have a decent chance of getting in.
There is still much to be determined on the final matchday. Group B will dictate how most of this goes, and should Armenia fail to finish 2nd, even more will be settled. We’ll be keeping an eye on the developments on Tuesday and Tweeting updates @We_Global. Be sure to follow us!
Group A Preview (Belgium, Croatia, Serbia, FYR Macedonia, Scotland, Wales)
Group B Preview (Italy, Bulgaria, Denmark, Czech Republic, Armenia, Malta)
Group C Preview (Germany, Sweden, Austria, Republic of Ireland, Kazakhstan, Faroe Islands)
Group D Preview (Netherlands, Romania, Hungary, Turkey, Estonia, Andorra)
Group E Preview (Switzerland, Iceland, Slovenia, Norway, Albania, Cyprus)
Group F Preview (Russia, Portugal, Israel, Azerbaijan, Northern Ireland, Luxembourg)
Group G Preview (Bosnia-Herzegovina, Greece, Slovakia, Lithuania, Latvia, Liechtenstein)
Group H Preview (England, Ukraine, Montenegro, Poland, Moldova, San Marino)
Group I Preview (Spain, France, Finland, Georgia, Belarus)