Uefa may move Euro 2020 playoff goalposts in Ireland’s favour
Despite initially seeming certain to face away tie, Ireland now might play semi-final at home
Ireland’s James McClean attempts to score during the Euro 2020 qualifier against Denmark. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Despite it initially seeming certain that Ireland would face an away semi-final in the Euro 2020 playoffs, there is now a possibility that the match could in fact be held in Dublin as Uefa may change the rules before Friday’s draw.
If Wales fail to beat Hungary on Tuesday night it means that there will be five teams (Ireland, Northern Ireland, Wales, Slovakia and Bosnia and Herzegovina) set for just four spots in the Path B playoffs. Therefore one team must be moved up to Path A. Initially it looked like Ireland would not be moved so as to avoid a clash with fellow host nation Romania, but now there is a sense in the FAI that Uefa may disregard that and include Ireland in a draw to be bumped up.
Uefa plan for such possibilities by establishing an Emergency Panel which essentially allows them to change the rules as they go along. They also stipulate in their tournament conditions that they will attempt to give hosts the best chance of qualifying which led to the assumption that Ireland would remain in Path B. However, Ireland may theoretically have a better chance in Path A as they would be one of the two higher ranked teams, therefore guaranteeing a home semi-final most likely against either Bulgaria or Israel.
The only issue if Uefa were to move Ireland up to Path A is that it would leave Romania in Path C alongside Scotland, therefore resulting in a clash between two host nations. It’s for that reason that the initial assumption was that Ireland would remain in Path B, Romania would move to Path A and Scotland would stay in Path C, keeping the three host nations apart.
With the playoff draw set to take place on Friday at 11am in Nyon, Uefa are due to decide which teams will be moved in the next few days.
If Wales were to overcome Hungary and book their place at Euro 2020 then it’s very likely Ireland would remain in Path B as no team would need to be bumped up.
In that case, Ireland would play Slovakia away on March 26th in the playoff semi-final with the Slovak FA given until December 20th to decide which venue the match will be played in as they alternate between Bratislava and Trnava.
Ireland would be away from home in that semi-final due to their lower Uefa ranking while the other semi-final would see Bosnia and Herzegovina meet Northern Ireland.
Should Ireland overcome Slovakia and reach the final of the playoffs then there will be a 50/50 chance it will be played in Dublin on March 31st. Uefa will make a draw in Nyon on Friday to decide who will host the final meaning that Ireland could potentially face a trip to Belfast to take on Northern Ireland or a return to Bosnia who Martin O’Neill’s side beat in 2015 to qualify for Euro 2016.