What is the European Play-off draw?
Last week saw the end of all the European qualification group action for of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, which starts in June.
As it stands, 23 of the 32 Spots have already been filled Worldwide, with automatic qualification in their respective continents group stages over. The world (bar Africa which comes to a head next month), now knows who will be going to Russia, or who will be featuring in Play-Offs in the upcoming weeks.
So far in Europe, nine teams have achieved the automatic qualification by topping their groups with Russia qualifying automatically as hosts, but there is still 4 European places up for grabs. However, there is still 8 teams with potential to qualify for these places, which means next that month they must first play against each other, with half missing out on these all important final spots.
To decide who will be competing against who for these final four places, the teams will take place in a draw tomorrow, in Zurich, Switzerland. The draw will be presented by Vanessa Huppenkothen, a renowned Mexican TV Presenter and former Spain International, Fernando Hierro.
How the European Play-Off works?
The draw will decide who will play who in two fixtures, home and away, set for the somewhere between the 9-14 November.
Who has successfully qualified will be determined by the aggregate scores of two games.
If it remains a draw on aggregate, it will be determined by who has scored the most away goals. If after the second there is still no winner then it will go on to extra time, 15 minutes each half, and if it still remains level after this, then it will be determined by penalties.
Although there is eight teams in the process, they do not all have the potential to play against each other.
This is due to the fact that half the teams have been seeded. Seeded means that the top teams, in accordance with FIFA World Ranking, will be placed in a separate pot, as to avoid the “best” teams playing against each other.
The seeded and unseeded teams name will be placed on balls and put into two separate pots. There will be one ball at a time being drawn at random from each of the two pots. The set of two teams on the balls drawn directly after each other will be the fixtures for next month.
They will then have their balls placed in a separate pot and one of these will then be drawn from this pot, this team will be the home team for the first match.
Who is in the European Play-off draw?
The teams who are now competing are the the ones who performed best of all the runners up in the group stages that have been being played over the past year or so.
This is decided on the basis of who had the most points, the biggest goal difference, the highest number of of goals scored and fair play ranking, disregarding any who had came dead last in their group.
These best runners up and teams that will be fighting for these all important spots are Denmark, Greece, Republic of Ireland, Italy, Croatia, Northern Ireland, Sweden and Switzerland.
The coach of these teams will be in attendance at the draw as representatives of their respective teams.
The Seeded Teams:
Naturally, none of the team will be particularly happy with the prospect of their team qualifying for the World Cup still being up in the air. However, none of the teams will be more guttted than Switzerland, who had lost zero games before the final match and merely needed a draw in their final game against Portugal, a feat they didn’t manage.
These will be the team that everyone will be trying to avoid, as they managed an impressive 27 Points and only lost out to Portugal on goal difference, none of the unseeded teams will want to pit themselves against this impressive Swiss side who will be heading into these play-offs looking for redemption.
Another team all the unseeded sides will be wary off is Italy. This is the team who have the most previous world cup wins under their belt, lifting the cup four times and have the highest odds out of all the teams in the playoff to win the cup again outright. Another impressive feature of Italy is they have never previously failed to qualify for the World Cup before and have featured in all 15 since its formation in 1930. In fact, the last European championship that they missed was a quarter of a decade ago too. They came second behind Spain and had the second most points of all the play-off teams. It is fair to say that if they have been in another group, they may never have even been in this situation. It is hard to see Italy losing against any of the unseeded teams and if they do fail to qualify, some serious questions will be asked of the team.
Croatia lost out on a mere two points to automatically qualify behind Iceland, who performed very well previously on the international stage back at Euro 2016. Croatia will be reeling from narrowly missing out, but have the experience in their side which will no doubt play to their advantage. They can brag players who have performed in countless big games, including Barcelona’s, Ivan Rakitic and of course, their Captain Luka Modric, who will definitely be up for the challenge. Unfortunately, they were inconsistent in qualifiers and this was their downfall, dropping points against third place, Turkey, both home and away. If they had won just one of these they would be through already. They have a good chance of qualifying still though if their players turn up with the right attitude. Of all the playoff teams, these are the third favorites to win the cup, something that their players should keep in mind.
Denmark missed out on both, the last World Cup and European championships and have not got passed the group stages in either since 2004. Although this doesn’t bode well for their performances in big games and championships, they only lost twice in qualifying and in fact, beat the group winners, Poland, 4-0 back in September, just one of three games where they scored 4 goals. In fact, If it wasn’t for losing their second and third games in October 2016, including a 1-0 loss to under dogs Montenegro, they would be going through already. This a Danish team who can score goals and this is what they will need to do again if they hope to get through.
The Unseeded Teams
Sweden had perhaps the toughest group in the the qualifiers, with the likes of France and Netherlands standing in the their way in Group G. However, they held their own to the most part and were the only team in the group to beat the eventual group G winners, France. However, they lost in their final crunch game against Netherlands, which although they wouldn’t have qualified either way, as France won their final game, it doesn’t bode for them to perform if pitted against either the hungry Swiss or experienced Italy. This said, even without their old talisman, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, they haven’t performed badly and of all the unseeded teams, are most likely to go through, draw permitting that is.
Republic of Ireland
Republic of Ireland perhaps effectively missed out on automatic qualification thanks to just one loss against Serbia, the eventual group D winners.
Other than this, the Republic of Ireland had a very impressive qualification round, winning against the both Wales and Austria. They will be feeling slightly hard done by, which is sure to be motivation, plus let’s not forget that they have some serious passion in the stands behind them, we simply have to cast our minds back to their passionate following at Euros to remind of us this. These factors combined might just be enough to make the difference against whom they come up against after the draw tomorrow.
Ireland did as well as their fans would have expected with their second place finish in Group C. No one was expecting anyone but current holders, Germany, to get through and they did in stunning fashion, topping their group without dropping a point and ended it with the massive total of 30 points. Other than Germany, they had a relatively soft group, with the likes of San Marino and Azerbaijan to compete against. However, they humiliated both of these sides both home and away, putting 7 past San Marino and 5 Past Azerbaijan. As well as this, apart from loses to Germany, they only lost one other game, in an irrelevant 1-0 away loss to Norway in their final game which took place after they had already qualified. In fact, they had already clinched second place a month before this, in their win against Czech Republic back in September. This being said, that was their second loss on the bounce and seeing them beat any of the seeded team might be a bit too much to ask, plus they have the worst odds out of the play off teams to go on to win it. This being said, if they get drawn against either Denmark or Croatia, I wouldn’t rule them out just yet
Greece were in the same group as Belgium, the side that were the first to achieve automatic qualification, which goes to show what they were up against. However, this was the only side they did lose against. Although they did have some very impressive performance against Gibraltar, in which they scored four, they only narrowly clinched second by two points, which isn’t the best result considering the caliber of teams in their group. They dropped too many points via draws and this won’t do if they hope to proceed. As well as this, they have the joint least World Cup experience with Northern Ireland, with just three. This said, two of out of three of those were the most recent world cups and both of them they qualified for via Playoffs and so are no strangers to the process. They will be hoping it isn’t third time unlucky and they get a weak team in the draw.
Where can i watch it?
The draw takes place tomorrow (17/10/2017), at 14:00 local time (13:00 BST).
You can stream it live either on FIFA.com, Facebook and Youtube.
Of course, you can also monitor the results of the draw via other social media, such as Twitter, Instagram and the official Facebook page of 2018 World Cup Russia.
We be will back tomorrow with news about the results of the draw.