Estonia is allowed to go to the play-offs despite 1 in 24 in the Red Devils group and still dreams of the European Championship: how is that possible?

© Getty Images

The group stage of the European Championship qualification ends on Tuesday evening. We will soon know 21 of the 24 participants in the European Championship. The last three tickets will not be distributed until March. Twelve countries will then get another chance in the so-called play-offs. It is striking that Estonia will also be there, despite a disastrous 1 out of 24 in the Red Devils’ qualifying group. The Estonians owe this to the complicated system of the Nations League.

Wales and Croatia will compete on Tuesday evening for the last direct ticket for the European Championship. If Croatia beats Armenia on its own field, it will be assured of participation in the European Championship. If the result is different, we will have to wait and see what Wales does in its last home match against Turkey, which is already certain of qualification. We won’t know the three final participants until March. Then the play-offs are on the program. Twelve countries that could not qualify directly are included. This is not based on their performance in the past European Championship qualifying campaign, but on the results in the last edition of the Nations League.

In the Nations League, the 55 UEFA members are divided into four different divisions. Even before the start of the European Championship qualifying campaign, the winners of the divisions were certain that they would be allowed to participate in the play-offs if they chose not to qualify directly. For example, Israel, Bosnia-Herzegovina (winners division B), Georgia, Greece and Kazakhstan (winners division C) have known for a long time that there was a safety net for them. And they will try to take advantage of that.

Dream of Estonia

Estonia (winner of division D) also knew in advance that it had a good chance. In principle, the countries from Division D were not eligible to participate in the play-offs this time. That was still the case at the previous European Championship. But that was because there was no host country at the time, so four tickets remained after the qualifying campaign. This time there were only three, as Germany was added as host country. But of course there was once again one major exception. If fewer than four countries in League A were to miss out on direct promotion, the winner of Division D would still be picked up. And so it happened. Poland is currently the only country from Division A that has opted for direct qualification. Croatia or Wales will be added on Tuesday evening.

But in any case, a maximum of two countries from Division A will not have qualified directly. As a result, Estonia, as the winner of division D, is already certain that it can participate in the play-offs of division A. Despite a 1 out of 24 in the qualifying group, the Estonians can still dream of the European Championship. Thanks to their good performance in last year’s Nations League. Estonia beat Malta and San Marino. Based on that sporting merit, the Baltic state still has a chance of its very first European Championship participation.

There is still hope for Estonian fans. — © Getty Images

Composition of play-offs

We will certainly find Poland and Estonia in the play-offs of Division A. Croatia or Wales will be added on Tuesday evening. The fourth country will – depending on tonight’s results – be Finland, Ukraine or Iceland. Bosnia-Herzegovina and Israel are already assured of their place in the play-offs of Division B. There too it will be between Finland, Ukraine and Iceland for the remaining two tickets. The Division C play-offs have been definitively fixed since Monday. Georgia takes on Luxembourg, Greece hosts Kazakhstan. The winners of both semi-finals will then compete against each other in a final for a European Championship ticket. Both the semi-finals and the final will be played in one match. The two highest ranked countries in the last edition of the Nations League can play the semi-finals at home. The home advantage in the final is determined by draw. This system was used for the first time at the previous edition of the European Championships with 24 teams. Hungary (A), Slovakia (B), Scotland (C) and North Macedonia (D) won the last four European Championship tickets via the play-offs.

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