So – 2 games to go, and all will be resolved this coming 7 days. It’s amazing to think people think International football is boring, but when you look at these groups there is so much still to resolve. There are literally only a handful of teams already qualified and so many new teams still in with a chance to qualify either automatically or through the playoff’s or even Best 3rd placed team.
Teams such as Albania, Israel and Northern Ireland could qualify for the first time – so the expansion to 24 teams for me has opened it all up and made it interesting. Iceland, Czech Republic, Austria and England have guaranteed qualification, while quite a few are assured of at least a playoff place. You can keep track of all of the games coming up using an app developed by Sportytrader – which for me is one of, if not the best of it’s sort!
Anyway – here is how each group stands and what could potentially happen:
Group A seems to be the one most sorted, but has an interesting tale to tell. Iceland and Czech Republic are both through with 19 points, 7 clear of Turkey. 2 behind Turkey – the 2014 World Cup’s 3rd place team: Holland.
1. Iceland – 19 Points
2. Czech Rep – 19 Points
3. Turkey – 12 Points
4. Holland – 10 Points
They need to beat both Kazakhstan and Czech Republic, the latter a side that has beaten them already. Turkey face both Iceland and the Czech’s, so at this point I think Holland have to be favourites to get 3rd, although the way they are playing a draw or loss vs the Kazakhs is not out of the question! I fancy Holland to qualify for the playoffs.
Amazingly, 5 teams in the group are still in with a chance of getting in the top three! It’s very tight all the way down, bar Andorra who have their regulation 0 points. Here is how the group stands:
1. Wales – 18 Points
2. Belgium – 17 Points
3. Israel – 13 Points
4. Bosnia – 11 Points
5. Cyprus – 9 Points
The jist of it is this – Belgium and Wales face Andorra – so have both qualified straight off the bat. Bosnia face Cyprus and Wales, where I think they will get 4 points, although defeating Wales is a possibility with the class of players they have. Israel, currently 3rd – face Cyprus and Belgium, and for me a max of 3 points – 16 total, and with that should come 3rd place. Bosnia a close 4th, and Cyprus should stand no chance in 5th.
Group C looks pretty sewn up – there are only 3 teams who can qualify as they are so far ahead of the other three sides.
1. Spain – 21 Points
2. Slovakia – 18 Points
3. Ukraine – 16 Points
Spain face Ukraine and Luxembourg, so at least 3 points means they should qualify top. Slovakia have to play Belarus and Luxembourg – so again probably 4-6 points the way they are playing at the moment. That leaves Ukraine facing the playoffs – Matches against Macedonia and Spain is a tough ask to get 2 wins and hope that Slovakia slip up.
This is the one they call the Group of Death – Poland and Germany are two very tough sides and unfortunately for Rep Ireland and Scotland, they got the short straw. Here’s how the table stands:
1. Germany – 19 Points
2. Poland – 17 Points
3. Ireland – 15 Points
4. Scotland – 11 Points
For Scotland, it all rests on the Poland game. They need a point, minimum – and hope Germany beat Ireland – as they are pretty much 100% going to beat Gibraltar. Ireland then have to play Poland away and, should Scotland have taken a point vs Poland – need something otherwise 3rd place could go to the Scots. However – I believe Poland will beat Scotland and that will be that! The race for 1st is also a good battle, but I feel Germany should win it as Poland have more chance of dropping points.
This group is very nearly sorted.
1. England – 24 Points
2. Switzerland – 15 Points
3. Slovenia – 12 Points
4. Estonia – 10 Points
5. Lithuania – 9 Points
England have won it, with 24 points and 8 wins from 8. Switzerland are 2nd, while Slovenia are 3rd. There is a remote possibility that Estonia could qualify but that would mean beating England and Switzerland and needing Slovenia to lose against San Marino. Switzerland need a couple more points from games against San Marino and Estonia, while Lithuania could still feasibly qualify but face Slovenia and England – so pretty much impossible. Switzerland 2nd, Slovenia 3rd – that’s the most likely outcome.
If Group D was ‘The Group of Death’ then this one is ‘The Group of Bored to Death’. All 6 teams are low scorers, meaning this has been a very dull group. Bar Northern Ireland, all have scored less than a goal per game, with Romania and Hungary being very mean at the back as well. Here’s how it stands:
1. Northern Ireland – 17 Points
2. Romania – 16 Points
3. Hungary – 13 Points
4. Finland – 10 Points
Romania face Finland and the Faroe’s – so there’s surely 4 points at least there. Northern Ireland face Greece and Finland, so again at least 3 points from that. Those two are pretty much through to France next year. Hungary vs Finland for the playoff spot. Finland face the top two sides so that is them pretty much out of it. Hungary face Greece and the Faroe Islands, so should take 3 points minimum. Top three should go through as it is.
Much like Group E, one team is through and the rest battle for 2nd and 3rd.
1. Austria – 22 Points
2. Russia – 14 Points
3. Sweden – 12 Points
4. Montenegro – 11 Points
Austria are through. Russia face Moldova and Montenegro, so should take 3 points from that set and qualify. Sweden face Moldova and Liechtenstein, again at least 4 points from those and potentially if Montenegro beat Russia, 2nd place – failing that a safe playoff spot. Montenegro have it all to do, facing both Russia and Austria. Should be interesting between Russia and Sweden, but I’d think Russia should get through automatically.
This looks like another Group that could be decided by one game! Here’s how it stands:
1. Italy – 18 Points
2. Norway – 16 Points
3. Croatia – 14 Points
The rest are out of it. Croatia were deducted 1 point which could come back to haunt them, but at this stage at worse they could come away with the best 3rd placed team and qualify automatically. They face Bulgaria and Malta, which for me should be 4-6 points, though they recently drew to Azerbaijan and lost to Norway, so anything is possible. Italy face Azerbaijan and Norway, whle Norway face Italy and Malta. Both should win their easier game – but it is the Italy vs Norway that decides the fate of the Group. Italy win – it’s likely that Norway drop to 3rd. Norway win – they take 2nd at worst and Croatia go to a playoff. Draw – then it gets tasty. Could be level on points with the Croats and GD or even H2H comes into it! The way Croatia and Norway are playing, I think it will be option 2 or 3 – Italy are pretty much done and struggle in later qualifying against poor sides. For me – Norway to go through and Croatia to go into the P/O’s.
This is the smallest of the Groups, with just 5 sides in – however for me the most fascinating!
1. Portugal – 15 Points
2. Denmark – 12 Points
3. Albania – 11 Points
Armenia and Serbia have no chance – but Denmark have played a game more than Albania, meaning if Portugal beat Denmark, Albania need as little as 2 points to qualify! That would be insane! They play very good football and I for one would love to see them there. They face Armenia and Serbia in their final 2 games, and judging how they took 6 points from the two previous meets with those (one being awarded…Serbia match should be interesting to say the least) then I’d think they will get a minimum of 2 draws. Portugal are a bit iffy though and will know if all goes wrong they could wind up in 3rd – so I believe will take at least a point against Denmark. This may be my heart talking – but Portugal and Albania to get 1st and 2nd, Denmark drop into the playoff’s!
So the way I see it – these 18 (plus France) will qualify directly:
Spain, Slovakia, England, Switzerland, Germany, Poland, Northern Ireland, Romania, Belgium, Wales, Iceland, Czech Rep, Austria, Russia, Italy, Norway, Portugal and Albania.
Into the playoff’s will be: Holland, Israel, Ukraine, Croatia, Ireland, Slovenia, Hungary, Denmark and Sweden, with the likely ‘Best 3rd Placed’ side to be Ukraine, Hungary or Croatia – judging on how the last few games are.
The matches against the bottom side of each group (to compensate for Group I, which only has 5 teams) get taken out of the equation – so if any of the first 8 groups have games between the top couple and the bottom side, it has no bearing if a team is in 3rd.
With an extra 8 teams being allowed in this time, I think it has really improved the competition. The qualifying phase used to be pretty dull as only the top side, plus 5 through the playoffs – used to get through, meaning the main competition itself was between the best teams which often made for pretty drab games. With some new teams in there like Iceland or Albania, it should spice it up a bit and give us a little of the unknown and potential for shocks. A slightly longer tournament would also be great, as in the past it’s been over and done with far too quickly for my liking!
Good luck with your bets for the coming days – we have a preview coming up later today which will cover the first three days