One of the biggest football competitions in the world is undoubtedly the World Cup. Many agree that it is the single most popular sports event at the moment. However, if you ask Europeans what the second most important event after the World Cup is, the majority will agree that it is the European Football Championship, also known as UEFA Euro.
The upcoming competition is scheduled for 2020. It takes place every four years, just like the World Cup, and this EURO 2020 will start on June 12. It will last for one month exactly and the majority of competitors are already known.
Yet, four teams still have to fight their way to the tournament.
At this moment, a total of 20 teams qualified in the qualification round by being in the first or the second position in their respective groups. The tournament will host a total of 24 countries, meaning four national teams will have to be the best in the playoff round.
Before Euro 2020, there were no playoffs. Instead, only four teams with the best overall score were automatically introduced to the competition. However, the organisers decided to take a somewhat different approach this time and make things a bit more interesting.
Therefore, a total of 16 teams that didn’t make it to the final tournament will have an opportunity to play for their place under the sun. These teams are mainly those that had great results at the 2018-19 UEFA Nations League.
The teams that will compete in the playoffs are Iceland, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovakia, Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Norway, Serbia, Bulgaria, Israel, Hungary, Romania, Georgia, North Macedonia, Kosovo, and Belarus.
The playoff is divided into four paths — A, B, C, D. Winner of every path will proceed to Euro 2020. Each of the paths will have two semi-final one-leg matches and a one-leg final match.
Let’s take a look at individual paths and the teams in them.
The teams selected for Path A are Bulgaria, Hungary, Iceland, and Romania. The two semi-final matches will see Bulgaria face Hungary and Iceland facing Romania. The team which wins Path A will enter Group C or F, depending on the results of Path D.
If they make it to Group F, they will be facing Portugal, France, and Germany. Group F is widely regarded as the ‘group of death’, featuring a former Euro Championship winner, Portugal, France, the current champion of the world, and Germany, the former world champion.
At the last European Championship, Iceland made a miracle by making it to the knock-out phase, which is why many hope the small island-nation will be able to at least make it to the competition. Therefore, Iceland is perhaps considered one of the favourites in this path, but it certainly won’t be an easy task.
Path B will see Bosnia and Herzegovina face Northern Ireland, and, according to bookmakers, Bosnia is the favourite in this one. The other semi-final match will be between Slovakia and the Republic of Ireland, Slovakia being a slight favourite.
The winner of Path B will enter Group E where Spain, Sweden, and Poland are. At this point, it’s fairly difficult to say which country is the most likely to win Path B.
Patch C includes Norway, Serbia, Scotland, and Israel. This is a fairly difficult group as all the teams have pretty solid national teams. In a match between Norway and Serbia, bookies are very much indecisive, giving a very slight advantage to Norway, as the game will take place in Oslo. On the other hand, Scotland is the clear favourite against Israel.
Winner of Path C will enter Group D where England, Croatia, and the Czech Republic await. Group D will definitely be one of the most interesting groups, as England will have a chance to get revenge on Croatia for the World Cup.
Finally, Path D consists of countries that are not exactly likely to make it to Euro 2020. These are Georgia, Belarus, North Macedonia, and Kosovo — none of these countries have much experience playing in big competitions. The winner will either make it to group C or group F, depending on the results of Path A. If the winner enters Group C, they will face the Netherlands, Ukraine, and Austria. There are no clear favourites here.