Football News

Euro 2020 qualifying: How the play-offs work and confirmed draw

By Harry Edwards

Published: 11:20, 22 November 2019

After the end of the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign, 20 of the 24 spots for the final tournament have been filled.

In previous qualifying campaigns, the remaining teams would be decided by play-offs based on their finishes in the group. But not this year.

Instead, the final four slots to be decided by the play-offs will be fill with teams based on their performances in the inaugural Uefa Nations League groups stage that took place last year.

So, how will it work?

A total of 16 teams will take part in the play-offs, scheduled for March 2020. The teams will be split into four paths, with the winner of each path securing a spot at Euro 2020.

In a perfect world, these paths would have been filled by the Uefa Nations League group winners, separated by their level. So, the League A winners would be put into one path, League B another and the same for the two remaining leagues. This system allows lower-ranked countries to have a realistic chance of reaching the European Championships – one they might never have had before.

But, unfortunately, it isn’t that simple once the official Euro 2020 qualifying campaign comes into play.

Naturally, there has been a crossover in the teams that have directly qualified and those that were guaranteed a play-off place through the Nations League.

As a result, their play-off spots have been handed to the next best-ranked team in their Uefa Nations League. But, once again, things aren’t so simple. For example, 11 of the 12 League A teams automatically qualified for Euro 2020 meaning their slots will need to be filled from the lower leagues.

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Each path will have their own single-legged semi-finals – hosted by the higher-ranked team – and a one-off final, with the location to be decided, to determine who competes at Euro 2020.

So, how do those paths look after the draw?

All semi-finals will take place on March 26, 2020 with the finals of March 31, 2020.

Path A

Iceland were the only League A team not to qualify automatically for Euro 2020 and will take their place in Path A of the play-offs. They have been joined by Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania after Friday’s draw. Romania will face Iceland, while Bulgaria and Hungary face off.

Semi-finals:

Iceland vs Romania

Bulgaria vs Hungary

Final:

Bulgaria/Hungary vs Iceland/Romania

Path B

In League B, Bosnia and Herzegovina are the only group winners not to have automatically qualified for Euro 2020 and will keep their place in Path B. And, after the final round of qualifying fixtures, we already knew who would be joining them as next best-ranked sides.

Bosnia and Herzegovina will host Northern Ireland in the first Path B semi-final – having also been in the same Uefa Nations League group – with Michael O’Neill’s side finishing without a point.

Meanwhile the other game sees Republic of Ireland travel to Slovakia for a chance to contest the final, with the pair finishing bottom of their respective Nations League groups.

Semi-finals:

Bosnia and Herzegovina vs Northern Ireland

Slovakia vs Republic of Ireland

Final:

Bosnia and Herzegovina/Northern Ireland vs Slovakia/Republic of Ireland

Path C

Three of the four teams in Patch C were confirmed with Scotland, Norway and Serbia after the group stages all guaranteed to be in Path C after winning their Nations League groups but failing to qualify automatically.

The only thing that needed to be decided was who out of Bulgaria, Israel, Romania and Hungary would join them. Israel were the name out of the pot, putting them up against Scotland, while Norway and Serbia face off.

Semi-finals:

Scotland vs Israel

Norway vs Serbia

Final:

Norway/Serbia vs Scotland/Israel

Path D

The simplest of the paths, Georgia, North Macedonia, Kosovo and Belarus all won their groups in League D and will contest the play-offs. The ties are decided similarly to normal league play-offs, with the best-ranked team going up against the worst and the two middle-sides facing each other. The only draw required was to decide who would host the final.

Semi-finals:

Georgia vs Belarus

North Macedonia vs Kosovo

Final:

Georgia/Belarus vs North Macedonia/Kosovo