Stephen Kenny has won just 11 of his 38 games in charge of the Republic of Ireland (Photo: Getty)
The Republic of Ireland have one last chance to qualify for next summer’s Euro 2024 and to do so they must LOSE to the Netherlands on Saturday.
Yes, you heard that right. Stephen Kenny’s side find themselves in a truly bizarre situation where defeat (and a whole lot of luck) could prove their salvation.
Confused? Of course you are, so Metro Sport has taken a look at how exactly this can this happen:
Who qualifies for Euro 2024?
24 teams will play at the tournament: the host nation Germany, the top two teams from the 10 qualifying groups, and three more teams via the play-offs.
The odds were already stacked against Ireland when the groups were drawn, yet they still managed to fall short of expectations, winning just two of their seven games so far.
France top Group B with 18 points and are already through, while the Netherlands and Greece have 12 points and will compete for the second qualification spot. Ireland on 6 and Gibraltar on 0 are already out.
Notably, Greece have just one game left (against France) but the Netherlands have two (against Ireland and Gibraltar). That means that at least one more win for Holland would guarantee their runners-up spot. Remember this for later…
It’s been another disappointing qualifying campaign for Ireland (Photo: Getty)
How do the play-offs work?
12 teams will battle it out for the three remaining spots at Euro 2024 next March. These teams are decided by the outcome of the 2022 Nations League (UEFA’s other competition that everyone forgets exists).
However, (and this is where it gets really confusing) some of the teams that qualified for a play-off spot, like Spain and Scotland, don’t need one as they’ve already automatically qualified through the groups.
As a result, their spot essentially goes to the next highest ranked team in the Nations League. There is a slight exception to this regarding Estonia but let’s not go into that…
But this is how Ireland can reach Euro 2024, claiming a spot in the play-offs that was originally intended for a top team in the Nations League.
Ronald Koeman’s Netherlands can seal their place at Euro 2024 with victory over Ireland (Photo: Getty)
Why lose to the Netherlands then?
Ireland’s problem is that they are ranked down in 26th in the Nations League and under current circumstances are unlikely to get a spot at the play-offs.
They therefore need as many teams ahead of the them in the rankings to qualify automatically to stand any chance of making it.
Both the Netherlands and Greece secured a play-off spot but only the former are ahead of Ireland in the rankings so it would be helpful if they automatically qualified instead of the latter.
And that brings us back to the upcoming fixtures, where three points from two games is enough for Holland to automatically qualify – and Ireland have the chance to hand those points over on a silver platter.
It should be noted though that even if Ireland don’t lose, Netherlands can still beat Gibraltar and qualify anyway which they are likely to do. And even if they don’t, Greece would have to get a result against France who are the No.2 team in the world and near-unbeatable.
And moreover, Ireland’s current form would suggest it’s highly improbable that they could beat the Netherlands in Amsterdam anyway.
So will Ireland actually go to the Euros?
In truth, it’s unlikely. As things stand they would need 11 more teams ranked ahead of them to get into the play-offs. Not impossible of course, but some of those teams are competing against each other so the odds aren’t in their favour.
And even if they did make it, there is the small matter of actually winning their play-off games next March and based off their performances this year that would be another huge mountain to climb.