How Ireland can top the Nations League group and improve its ranking in Euro 2024

We still can’t top the Nations League group, can we?

Yes almost.

Stephen Kenny boldly stated Ireland’s ambition to top their group in the Nations League ahead of the draw, before the successors lost to Armenia and at home to Ukraine seemed to destroy that goal.

But it’s not over yet. Ireland can still top the group, but will need to win both of their remaining games, against Scotland at Hampden Park on Saturday and Armenia in Dublin on Tuesday, with results hoped elsewhere. Recent history offers little hope: Ireland have yet to win back-to-back competitive matches under Kenny.

But if they finally check that box and win their own games, Ireland also need Ukraine to draw or lose away to Armenia on Saturday afternoon, and then they need Ukraine against Scotland to finish in a draw next Tuesday night.

That’s because teams equal in points are separated by their direct records. In this scenario, Ireland would top the group and finish with a 10-point lead with Scotland, but are ahead of them thanks to a superior head-to-head record. Ukraine will take third place with nine points. With Ukraine having a superior record in head-to-head against Ireland, this is the only scenario in which Ireland can still top the group.

The Armenia/Ukraine game kicks off at 2pm on Saturday, which means Ireland will be in Hampden Park to see if those dreams are still alive.

What is the benefit of being first in the group?

Most obvious is promotion to the top flight for the upcoming Nations League campaign, which will bring with it three home games by hitting the money against some of Europe’s biggest clubs.

Besides, being first in the group will ensure a second place in the qualifying draw for Euro 2024, which will take place on Sunday 9 October.

The rankings for this lottery are determined by the Nations League rankings. Since Germany does not have to qualify for the tournament they are hosting, the first pot will consist of the four group winners in League A along with the next best six teams. (If Germany wins their group in the Nations League, the first pot will include three group winners and the next best seven teams.)

This means that the remaining five teams in League A will be among the second seed in the Euro Draw, and this pot will be supplemented by the four winners of Group B, along with the best runner-up in League B.

There is a possibility that Ireland will slip into the second pot even if they take second place in their group, but that will depend on the number of results they achieve.

What might oddly help them is the opening-day defeat to Armenia. Since Russia is out of the competition and thus reduced by one group to three teams, the results against the underside in the remaining three groups of four teams (including Ireland) are left out in the teams’ standings. Armenia currently ranks last in the Irish group.

The possibility of Ireland finishing second in the qualifying draw by finishing second in the Nations League group remains, but it is very remote.

Being the second seed in the Euro qualifying draw would be a huge boost as the top two teams in each group qualify directly for the Euros. Plus, being third seed makes the prospect of a nightmare tie real: France and England are set to rank second, as they are now.

France is the champion of the Nations League.

Source: Xinhua News Agency / Palestinian Authority Photos

Can we get a European Championship playoff with the Nations League?


You might remember that this is how Ireland ended up playing Slovakia in the semi-finals of Euro 2020: a flaw in the structure meant Ireland had a playoff despite finishing at the bottom of the three-team group without winning a match. .

The system has been modified to avoid the kind of situation Ireland found themselves in at Euro 2020, where they were rewarded for being hopeless in the Nations League.

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Three teams will qualify for Euro 2024 through the Nations League play-off matches, with playoff positions being offered to 12 teams. One team from each of Leagues A, B and C will ensure qualification for the Euro through play-off matches.

This qualifying place is initially awarded to each winning group of Leagues A, B and C, but if that team automatically qualifies for the Euro, it will be passed to the next best-ranked team across all groups in that. league.

If Ireland end up top of their group in the Nations League, it will guarantee them a place in the playoffs.

If Ireland do not top their group, they will count on enough teams above them to automatically qualify for the Euro Championship to hand them their ticket to the play-off matches.

Ireland have a good chance of winning this playoff: they just need to be among the four highest-ranked teams in League B who have not already qualified for the European Championship.

A win over Scotland on Saturday will be crucial in this regard, as the subsequent result against Armenia – assuming it occupies last – will be ignored for that ranking as well. (This again has the benefit of making Ireland’s defeat in Armenia moot.)

In conclusion, Ireland can still top their group in the Nations League and secure themselves a higher ranking at Euro 2024 and a playoff at Euro 2024.

However, this is an unlikely possibility, and so he will rely on results elsewhere to earn the last two prizes. The exact results needed will become clearer before the final round of matches on Tuesday, but as Ireland collect more points over the next two matches, the more optimistic those predictions will be.