UEFA Euro 2016 qualifying
There is a record field of 53 nations intent on making Euro 2015, drawn into nine groups of five or six teams. Matches have been played on a home-and-away basis since 7 September 2014 and will conclude on 13 October 2015. The nine group winners, the nine group runners-up and the best third-placed side qualify directly for the final tournament. The eight remaining third-placed teams will contest play-offs to determine the last four qualifiers. For the first time, qualifying takes place under the 'Week of Football' concept, with games played from Thursday to Tuesday.
Let’s run down the nine groups and see who, at this relatively late stage in the qualifying process, is best placed to reach the finals in France. In Group A two teams, the Czech Republic (four wins, thirteen points) and Iceland (four wins, twelve points) are well ahead of the chasing pack with the Netherlands (seven points) and Turkey (five points) closely contesting the third-place spot. Group Two is closer: Belgium and Wales both being on eleven points, separated only by goal difference. Israel is two points behind on nine.
Slovakia in Group C have a 100% record of five wins, thus accruing fifteen points; Spain, having been beaten on by the leaders, have twelve and Ukraine nine. By contrast, Group D is exceptionally tight: Poland, Germany and Scotland having all won three games each, with Poland taking a one point lead over its rivals by dint of drawing two matches to their one.
England seem in full control of Group E with a 100% record and a healthy goal differential, as at this stage they lead both Slovenia and Switzerland by six points. The two fancied teams in Group F, as things stand, are Romania (four wins and one draw, thirteen points) followed surprisingly by Northern Ireland who have achieved four wins for twelve points. Hungary are third with eight points.
Austria lead Group G with thirteen points pursued by Sweden (nine points) and Russia (eight points) whilst Croatia top Group H with thirteen points closely followed by Italy with eleven points and Norway with nine. The final group is one set of matches behind all the others: Portugal lead with nine points from four games (the teams in all the other groups having played five games) followed by Denmark and Albania on seven points.
Automatically qualifying for the finals commencing 10th June will be France, the host country, plus nine group winners, nine runners-up and the top third placed team. The other third placed team go into the play-offs with the four sides with the best UEFA national team coefficient ranking seeded with a draw determining the pairing and order of home and away ties. The first legs will be played on 12, 13 and 14 November 2015 and the returns on 15, 16 and 17 November. The teams which score the greater aggregate of goals in each tie qualify for the finals, with away goals and then penalties used to determine the winner in the event of a draw.
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