How On Earth Do The Euro 2020 Play-Offs Work?

How do teams still make it to the finals if they qualify from the regular route?
12:22, 19 Nov 2019

The draw for the European Championship play-offs takes place on Friday, with this being the first tournament to rely on the UEFA Nations League to decide which will be the final four teams at the tournament. 

The play-offs this year are no longer the straight shootout between two teams that has so often been the curse of the Republic of Ireland in the past, but instead, there will be 16 teams battling for four spots at next summer's finals.

It is quite a complex process but we have attempted to simplify it for you below. 

Sixteen teams will compete in the play-offs and they will be split into four groups depending on where they finished in the inaugural Nations League. 

If nations have already qualified through the European qualifiers, as 11 of the 12 teams in League A have, then their group will be filled by the three highest-ranked teams from the league below who have failed to qualify. As a bonus, all of the group winners from the Nations League such as Scotland, Serbia and Bosnia & Herzegovina cannot be moved up to the next group, giving them a potentially easier route to the final as reward for their Nations League success. And in Scotland's case, there is also the guarantee of a home route through the play-offs thanks to their position as League C's highest seed.

Once this week's qualifiers are over, the 16 teams will be automatically split into four groups made up of four teams each. Each group will then be divided into two one-legged semi-finals, with the team that finished higher in the Nations League hosting the game.

The winners of the semi-finals - which take place between March 26-28 - will meet in the final, played from March 29-31, with the highest-seeded team again receiving home advantage.


And that works four times over, to give us eight semi-finals, four finals, and at the end of it all, four Euro 2020 qualifiers to join the 20 teams finishing first and second in the 10 groups of conventional qualifying.

Confused? You're not the only one! Whoever came up with this complex system is an absolute genius and we should see some incredibly exciting play-off action next year.

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