Euro 2020 qualifying draw: What time? Who can Ireland get? How does it work?
All you need to know ahead of the draw in Dublin on Sunday for the Euro 2020 qualifiers
Ireland’s Robbie Brady celebrates scoring the winner against Italy during the group stages at Euro 2016. Photo: Donall Farmer/Inpho
So, when does the draw take place?
Proceedings will kick off at 11am this Sunday morning (December 2nd). There will undoubtedly be the usual drawn out build-up beforehand so it could be close to 11.30am before it actually starts. Then, afterwards Uefa officials will meet to confirm details of dates and fixtures which will be released a few hours after the draw.
Where is it on?
The draw will take place in the Convention Centre in Dublin as Ireland is one of the multiple hosts of the tournament.
And who are the rest of the hosts?
For the first time the tournament will be hosted by numerous countries - 12 in total. They are England, Germany, Italy, Azerbaijan, Russia, Romania, Holland, Ireland, Spain, Hungary, Scotland and Denmark.
So how can I follow the draw?
Live coverage will start on RTÉ2 television at 10.45am and on Virgin Media Sport at 11am. If you are out and about you can also keep up to date with The Irish Times liveblog.
What is the format?
The 55 teams are divided into six pots and will make up 10 groups – five with five teams (A-E) and five with six teams (F-J).
The four Nations League finalists – meaning the four group winners from League A – will be placed in the five-team groups as they need two matchdays free for the Nations League finals.
It sounds like this draw is a bit different to previous ones. What are the seedings?
Well, the seedings are pretty much as they would usually be. Ireland’s dismal Nations League campaign and failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup means we are now in Pot 3. The pots are as follows:
Pot 1: Switzerland*, Portugal*, Holland*, England*, Belgium, France, Spain, Italy, Croatia, Poland. (* denotes Nations League finalists).
Pot 2: Germany, Iceland, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Ukraine, Denmark, Sweden, Russia, Austria, Wales, Czech Republic.
Pot 3: Slovakia, Turkey, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Norway, Serbia, Finland, Bulgaria, Israel.
Pot 4: Hungary, Romania, Greece, Albania, Montenegro, Cyprus, Estonia, Slovenia, Lithuania, Georgia.
Pot 5: Macedonia, Kosovo, Belarus, Luxembourg, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Gibraltar, Faroe Islands.
Pot 6: Latvia, Liechtenstein, Andorra, Malta, San Marino.
Who can Ireland get?
There are plenty of nightmare scenarios for Mick McCarthy to face into in his first (and only) qualifying campaign as Ireland manager but there are also some clauses in the draw which could work out well for Ireland.
Uefa have ruled that, in order to give hosts the best chance of qualifying, there can be no more than two in each group. As Ireland are one of the 12 hosts that means they can only be drawn with one other host so, for instance, we can’t be drawn with both England and Germany.
Apart from that we’re open to drawing anyone.
When do the matches start?
The first round of group matches take place on March 21st, 22nd and 23rd.
The full list of matchday dates are as follows:
Matchday 1: March 21st-23rd 2019
Matchday 2: March 24th-26th 2019
Matchday 3: June 7th-8th 2019
Matchday 4: June 10th-11th 2019
Matchday 5: September 5th-7th 2019
Matchday 6: September 8th-10th 2019
Matchday 7: October 10th-12th 2019
Matchday 8: October 13th-15th 2019
Matchday 9: November 14th-16th 2019
Matchday 10: November 17th-19th 2019
How many qualify?
The top two from each group will qualify directly for the tournament, making up 20 teams. The other four teams will come from the Nations League play-offs which will comprise the top ranked teams not already qualfied for the finals.
If we don’t finish in the top two are we out?
Of course not. As Brian Kerr said recently it’s almost like Uefa are making it harder for teams not to get a place. With 20 teams going through automatically from the 10 qualifying groups, as explained above the final four places will be filled by the winners of the Nations League play-offs.
Now, given the fact that Ireland were relegated from Nations League B you would think that we wouldn’t be in line for a place. But, thanks to the excellent formatting of the Nations League it turns out that we have an excellent chance. Essentially, if Wales and Denmark both qualify automatically from their qualifier groups (which they will be expected to given they are both in Pot 2), then neither will require the play-off place, which is given to Ireland who would then go up against three other teams for a place in the tournament. Those play-offs will take place between March 26th and 31st 2020.
What is the best draw we could get?
Poland: None of the Pot 1 teams are ever going to be particularly enticing but the Poles look to be the weakest.
Iceland: The Euro 2016 and World Cup 2018 buzz seems to have worn off slightly for the Icelanders who finished bottom of their Nations League group with no point, 13 goals conceded and just one scored. Granted, they were in League A but even then they had one of the more manageable groups alongside Belgium and Switzerland.
Lithuania: Not since 1997 – incidentally when Mick McCarthy was previously Ireland manager – have we faced Lithuania. The eastern European nation looked way out of their depth even in League C of the Nations League as they finished bottom of their group without a point after some heavy defeats to Serbia, Romania and Montenegro.
Gibraltar: The tiny British territory managed to pick up the first two international wins in their history in the Nations League as they beat Armenia and Liechtenstein. They’ve certainly come on since Ireland’s 7-0 win in 2014 but they still shouldn’t cause many problems.
San Marino: For a long time the whipping boys in Europe they still maintain that status, living up to it in the Nations League with six defeats and no goals scored.
And ... what is the worst draw we could get?
France: They are the world champions. While they didn’t win their Nations League group that can easily be put down to a World Cup hangover.
Germany: Only four years ago they were world champions and now they are in Pot 2. A poor Nations League campaign, which resulted in relegation to League B, coupled with their horror-show at the World Cup in Russia has seen German football thrown into disarray. However, they are still Germany. Memories of Shane Long’s goal to beat Joachim Löw’s side in 2014 are still fresh but so are those of the 6-1 and 3-0 hammerings in qualifying for the 2014 World Cup.
Greece: Hungary and Romania may well be stronger teams in Pot 4 but they are both hosts meaning Ireland could not get either of those as well as Germany. That leaves Greece who are the highest-ranked team in Pot 4 and who also won three games in their Nations League campaign. Don’t forget they are also former European champions.
Kosovo: While none of the Pot 5 teams should realistically cause Ireland much harm, Kosovo were particularly impressive in the Nations League as they gained promotion without losing a game. Also, given that this is just their second qualifying campaign ever, their seeding may well be off.
Latvia: The only team in Pot 6 who did not finish bottom of their Nations League group and even then it was only on goal difference ahead of Andorra. If any of these teams cause Ireland problems then we can be pretty sure the return of Mick isn’t working out too well.