Four spots are still up for grabs at the Euro 2020 finals which take place throughout the continent this coming summer. These places will be competed for by 16 UEFA nations during the play-offs in March.
Unlike previous formats, there will be one-legged ties with four teams going for one spot in the finals via a certain path. That means there are play-off semi-finals and finals to whittle four down to one. Which countries are still standing and in with a shout of reaching Euro 2020?
Euro 2016 quarter-finalists Iceland face a play-offs pool packed full of Eastern European opposition. The Nordic island nation play Romania, who also reached the last Euros, at home in their Path A semi-final.
Either Bulgaria or Hungary awaits Iceland. Bulgaria haven’t featured at a European Championship finals since 2004. Hungary were play-off winners at Euro 2016, then topped Iceland’s group at the finals from which eventual winners Portugal also qualified.
There’s a scenario where Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland can reach Euro 2020 but not both. The two bordering nations can meet in the Path B play-off final, provided they come through their respective semis.
According to the latest international football betting on reaching Euro 2020, they are both underdogs. The Republic are at odds of 7/2 to win Path B but must get past Slovakia away first. It’s a tough trip for Mick McCarthy’s men who reached the last two Euros.
Slovakia made their debut at the European Championship as an independent nation four years ago after competing as Czechoslovakia until 1992. Another country formed in the 1990s – Bosnia and Herzegovina – are favourites to win this particular set of play-offs, however.
Northern Ireland, who reached the Euro 2016 finals, are now 11/2 outsiders to progress from Path B as they play Bosnia away. Although national boss Michael O’Neill is set to be in charge for their play-offs campaign, he is now back in club management with Stoke City and thus pulling double duty.
We haven’t seen Scotland at a major international tournament since 1998. The Tartan Army are also up against it as Path C pits them at home to Israel. Only Harry Kane scored more goals in regular qualifying than Eran Zahavi – a prolific Israeli attacker in the Chinese Super League with Guangzhou R&F. If Steve Clarke can stop him, and he scored against Scotland under previous boss Alex McLeish in the Nations League, then its the much tougher task of either Serbia or Norway in the Path C final.
The Serbs with the physical presence of Fulham centre forward Aleksandar Mitrovic up front are market leaders to progress from this path; this is because Scandinavian outfit Norway haven’t reached a major tournament since Euro 2000. Serbia have reached three World Cups since the breakup of the former Yugoslavia, but this would be a first Euros appearance in 20 years. Scotland are currently priced at 7/2 to qualify.
There’s guaranteed to be a first-time qualifier from Path D. Each of the four competing countries has never been to a European Championship as an independent nation.
Former Yugoslavia states North Macedonia and Kosovo go head-to-head in Skopje for the right to face one of two ex-Soviet Union states, Georgia or Belarus. Given the way Kosovo scored three goals at St Mary’s against England in regular qualifying, they are fancied in some quarters to win these play-offs.