How does Euro 2025 qualifying work? League format and play-off rounds explained

The Lionesses face Sweden, France and the Republic of Ireland in a tough qualifying group

Jamie Braidwood
Tuesday 04 June 2024 23:01 BST
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The Lionesses claimed an important win in France with two rounds of games to go in Group A3
The Lionesses claimed an important win in France with two rounds of games to go in Group A3 (The FA via Getty Images)

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England continue their European Championship defence in the Euro 2025 qualifiers - but the Lionesses face a ‘group of death’ on the road to Switzerland.

The Lionesses defeated Germany to win Euro 2022 in front of a sold-out Wembley and will be looking to reach another major tournament showpiece following their run to the Women’s World Cup final last year.

But changes to the European Qualifiers format means Sarina Wiegman’s side face a challenge to reach the Euro 2025 finals, at least in comparison to their run of one-sided victories in qualifying for the last World Cup.

Defending champions England face Sweden, France and the Republic of Ireland in Group A3 of the Euro 2025 qualifiers - a group that features three of the four semi-finalists from the last Euros and three of the top-six teams in the world.

After winning just one of their first three games, England claimed a vital win over France in Saint-Etienne to revive their hopes ahead of next month’s final two fixtures, which are at home to the Republic of Ireland and away to Sweden. Here’s how the Euro 2025 qualifying works...

Group A3 standings after England’s win

First of all, why is England’s group so hard?

Ahead of Euro 2025, Uefa changed the format of its European Qualifiers and adopted the Nations League model. Teams were split into three leagues (A, B and C), determined by their performance in the inaugural Women’s Nations League campaign. Essentially, the leagues correlate with Fifa ranking, so England are among the best teams in Europe in League A.

England finished second in their Nations League group earlier this season, behind the Netherlands - who qualified for the Finals. Sarina Wiegman’s team were therefore allocated in pot 2 of the League A draw. They drew France, who were in pot 1 as they won their Nations League group, as well as Sweden and the Republic of Ireland, the hardest possible opponents from pots 3 and 4. Sweden had finished third in their Nations League group, while Ireland were promoted from League B.

How do England qualify for Euro 2025?

England will play each other team in Group A3 twice, once at home and once away, across three international windows. In League A, the top two teams in each group will qualify automatically for the Euro 2025 finals, with the other two teams who finish third and fourth going through to the play-offs - even if they lose every game. It means at least one of France, England or Sweden, all semi-finalists at the last Euros, will be heading through to the play-offs.

How do the play-offs work?

The play-offs are two-legged ties with home and away fixtures and will be played across two rounds. As England are in League A, they would be among the seeded teams in the play-offs if the Lionesses finish either third or fourth in Group A3.

There, in the first round, they would be drawn against one of the group winners or runners-up from League C - which would be a favourable tie for England. In the second round of play-offs, England would be drawn against one of the runners-up or third-place teams in League B. The toughest opponent England could face in the play-offs, if they don’t qualify automatically, would be Portugal, Scotland or Wales.

The play-offs are stages across two rounds or two-legged ties, set to be played in October and then late November and early December in 2024.

What are England’s fixtures in Group A3?

  • England 1-1 Sweden – Friday 5 April, Wembley
  • Republic of Ireland 0-2 England – Tuesday 9 April
  • England 1-2 France – Friday 31 May, St James’ Park
  • France 1-2 England – Tuesday 4 June
  • England v Republic of Ireland – Friday 12 July, Carrow Road
  • Sweden v England – Tuesday 16 July

Play-off dates

  • Round 1: 23-29 October
  • Round 2: 27 November - 3 December

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