England look certain to go through – even if they lose

 

Click to follow
The Independent Online

England should still qualify automatically for the 2012 European Championship even if they lose in Montenegro next month, and subsequently finish second in Group G.

England's qualifying results to date should be good enough to secure them a place as the best group runner-up finisher whatever happens in Podgorica. However, they will need Sweden to drop points in Group E.

Ukraine and Poland, joint hosts, qualify automatically along with the nine group winners. The best second-placed finisher takes a spot with the other eight runners-up competing in play-offs for the four remaining places.

The best runner-up is determined by discounting results against teams coming last in six-team groups. While it is not yet clear what the finishing places will be in most groups only Sweden, currently second in Group E, can beat England's 17 points. To do so they will have to win away to neighbours Finland on 7 October, and at home to the Netherlands, who have won all eight matches to date, four days later.

In Group H Portugal and Denmark could both finish with 17 points, if they beat Iceland and Cyprus respectively on 7 October, then draw when they meet in Copenhagen on 11 October. In that case Portugal would finish top on head-to-head and unless they score heavily in Nicosia, Denmark (+5 at present) are unlikely to better England's goal difference (+12).

Turkey could get 17 points in Group A, but only if they win their remaining matches against Germany and Azerbaijan, and bottom-placed Kazahkstan overhaul the Azeris who are four points clear of them, which is improbable. Even then, England's goal difference is likely to be superior (Turkey are +3).

For the play-offs the best four teams under Uefa co-efficient will be seeded. England would be seeded, Scotland would not, Republic of Ireland are borderline depending on the teams involved.

The Swedish threat

England's goal difference means only Sweden can realistically stop them qualifying for Euro 2012 as best runner-up:

Group/Best possible runner-up*/Pts

A/Turkey/17

B/Rep Ireland/15

C/Serbia/14

D/France/Bosnia & H/14

E/Sweden/18

F/Croatia/Greece/16

G England/17

H/Denmark/17

I/Czech Republic/16

* discounting results against sixth-placed team; calculated on highest possible points to be gained by a group runner-up

Comments