Starting on Thursday this week, we have the last couple of rounds of action in the European Championships 2020 Qualifying campaign. Each of the ten groups will see its final games played and at the end of the qualifying, we will know 20 of the 24 teams that will be participating in next summer’s tournament.

Next year, the event takes place at a number of host cities around Europe, rather than one single country. Wembley is slated to host the semis and final of the tournament. This one-off for the tournament is in celebration of 60 years since the first European Championship finals was contested back in 1960.

Three of the four Home Nations still have qualifying hopes from the Group Stage, with the fourth already confirmed as an entrant in the Nations League Playoffs, which will take place in March 2020 to confirm the final four teams competing. The Republic of Ireland too could also qualify this week, depending on the outcome of their game.

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Let’s now take a closer look at what each of the four Home Nations teams need to do this week and also what fate awaits the Republic of Ireland as they face their final game in their highly competitive group too.

Home Nations Chances

England

  • Matchday 9 – England v Montenegro (Wembley – Thursday 7.45pm)
  • Matchday 10 – Kosovo v England (Pristiina Stadium – Sunday 5pm)

Group A Standings

Pos Team Ply Pts GD
1 England 6 15 20
2 Czech Republic 6 12 2
3 Kosovo 6 11 2
4 Montenegro 7 3 -12
5 Bulgaria 7 3 -12

In truth, England just need one point to be assured of reaching the finals next summer as the Czech Republic and Kosovo play each other on Thursday night. I can see England easily beating Montenegro at Wembley and that takes the pressure off for the game with Kosovo.

The Kosovan’s were 5-1 down to England at half time when they last met but rallied to make it 5-3 and while they were dangerous going forward, they looked wide open at the back, something I think England can take advantage of in what will be a difficult final game in the group.

Tip – England should beat Montenegro to claim qualification in their penultimate game rendering the game with Kosovo meaningless for them. However with Kosovo likely to need at least a point, if not all three, this could be a very tough game for England but I still feel they have enough on the counter attack to earn the win there too.

Wales

  • Matchday 9 – Azerbaijan v Wales (Baku, 5pm, Saturday)
  • Matchday 10 – Wales v Hungary (Cardiff, 7.45pm, Tuesday)

Group E Standings

Pos Team Ply Pts GD
1 Croatia 7 14 8
2 Hungary 7 12 -1
3 Slovakia 6 10 2
4 Wales 6 8 0
5 Azerbaijan 6 1 -9

Things look somewhat bleak for Wales in Group E, but actually all is not lost. The Welsh have a very winnable game in hand over the top two against Azerbaijan in Baku and a victory here would put them onto 11 points. Slovakia must face Croatia away and Azerbaijan at home in their final two games and with Croatia needing to win, that looks like a real opportunity for Wales to move into contention.

I can see Wales winning in Azerbaijan and Croatia claiming the top spot in the group with a win against Slovakia, which would set up a massive tie in Cardiff, where a win for either team would see them qualify, but a draw could see Slovakia progress at both their expenses. A real must-win game for both teams if ever there was one.

Tip – I have a sneaky feeling Wales can do this but it all depends on that frist game in Baku. If Wales can land the win, then Cardiff will be rocking for the Hungary game and if Croatia can beat Slovakia in their final game on Saturday, then it will be winner takes all for the Welsh here. I am backing them to pull it off and claim that second qualifying spot.

Northern Ireland

  • Matchday 9 – Ireland v Netherlands (Windsor Park, 7.45pm, Saturday)
  • Matchday 10 – Germany v N.Ireland (Commerzbank Arena, 7.45pm, Tuesday)

Group C Standings

Pos Team Ply Pts GD
1 Netherlands 6 15 12
2 Germany 6 15 14
3 Northern Ireland 6 12 1
4 Belarus 7 4 -8
5 Estonia 7 1 -19

Michael O’Neill’s team started with four wins from four to top this group and they could still claim one of the qualification spots if they can pick up two wins in their final two games. However, beating the Netherlands at home and then Germany away is a huge ask and in truth, I think the best that the Northern Irish can hope for is to earn a playoff spot next March and try to qualify that way.

Germany and the Netherlands both face Ireland and one of the lesser teams in the group in their final two games and in truth, it looks likely both will pick up maximum points with the Dutch’s better head to head record seeing them top the group over the Germans.

Tip – I can’t see much joy for Northern Ireland here, expect a spirited performance but ultimately defeat against two of European football’s superpowers.

Scotland

  • Matchday 9 – Cyprus v Scotland (Nicosia, 2pm, Saturday)
  • Matchday 10 – Scotland v Kazakhstan (Hampden, 7.45pm, Tuesday)

Group I Standings

Pos Team Ply Pts GD
1 Belgium (Q) 8 24 29
2 Russia (Q) 8 21 23
3 Cyprus 8 10 1
4 Scotland 8 9 -6
5 Kazakhstan 8 7 -4
6 San Marino 8 0 -43

Scotland’s boss Steve Clarke has set the Scottish team a minimum finish of third place in Group I, which would mean beating Cyprus and likely Kazakhstan to do that. The Scot’s cannot qualify from Group I, with Russia and Belgium already securing the spots in the finals next summer, but they are already confirmed in the Nations League Playoffs next March where two wins could see them earn one of the four qualifying spots available in this event.

The game in Cyprus will be the toughest test with the Scots having struggled to beat the Cypriots on home soil, a 2-1 victory thanks to a late winner from Oliver Burke. The Scots then face Kazakhstan in a game where they will be keen on revenge after they went down to a shocking 4-0 defeat in Astana to their opponents on the opening round of games.

Tip – I can see Cyprus earning a point in a draw in the first game, but I feel the Scots will be primed to earn a victory against Kazakhstan in the second. Four points may be enough for them to secure third spot in the group. Their main focus however will be preparing for the playoffs next March.

What are the Republic of Ireland’s Chances?

  • Matchday 9 – Friendly of Ireland v New Zealand (Arriva Stadium, 7.45pm, Thursday)
  • Matchday 10 – Republic of Ireland v Denmark (Arriva Stadium, 7.45pm Monday)

Group D Standings

Pos Team Ply Pts GD
1 Republic of Ireland 7 12 2
2 Denmark 6 12 11
3 Switzerland 6 11 7
4 Georgia 7 8 -3
5 Gibraltar 6 0 -17

The Irish have a warmup game with New Zealand on Thursday to prepare them for the challenge of Denmark on Monday night and it is another massive game for the Irish against their rivals. After knocking Ireland out of the World Cup 2018 in the playoffs for the finals, the Danes then shared two 0-0 draws with them in the Nations League, before another draw, this time 1-1 in Copenhagen in June.

With Denmark likely to beat Gibraltar in their penultimate game, this would see them go top of the group with 15 points. Similarly, Switzerland’s last two games are at home to Georgia and away to Gibraltar, which should bring them six points and move them onto 17 points, enough for them to qualify.

Therefore, this game looks to be a straight battle for a qualification spot. A win or draw for Denmark likely to be more than good enough to secure the spot, while a win for Ireland would see them earn a qualification spot, likely at the Dane’s expense.

Tip – Ireland have not beaten Denmark since August 2007, but I think they will have no fear here and with home advantage, I am backing them to gain revenge for that playoff defeat here.