Playoff Preview

This upcoming week is the final chance for a number of teams to book their place in this summer’s big football event. With most teams knowing their fate already, we are left with twelve teams who play against each other in the last chance playoffs.


The semi-finals of these matches will take place on Thursday evening with the final round being on the 26th of March. These playoffs are all single-leg knockout matches, so there is no home and away tie. If the ties are level at the end of normal time they will go to extra time and, if required, to a penalty shootout.


The semi-finals are as follows:

A – Poland vs Estonia

B – Wales vs Finland

C – Israel vs Iceland

D – Bosnia & Herzegovina vs Ukraine

E – Georgia vs Luxembourg

F – Greece vs Kazakhstan


Once the winners have been decided, the finals will be played as follows:

Final 1 – A vs B

Final 2 – C vs D

Final 3 – E vs F

The eventual winner of these final matches will find themselves in Groups D, E and F respectively. As things stand, these groups are as follows:

Group D

Netherlands

Austria

France

Group E

Belgium

Slovakia

Romania

Group F

Turkey

Portugal

Czechia

The playoff matches were determined based on the performance of each team in the 2022/23 Nations League, followed by a draw to determine the home and away teams and the pathway each would take. 


Match Previews


Georgia vs Luxembourg 

Georgia will be somewhat disappointed to have finished fourth in their qualification group, but they do now have a chance to make amends and will be confident of making home advantage count against Luxembourg. The winner of this tie will face off against either Greece or Kazakhstan next week to decide who will get the chance to go to Germany. Georgia do not have the best record against their opponents though, with only two wins from the last four meetings. On the plus side, they are unbeaten at home in their last three matches. 

Luxembourg are a team that has shown noticeable improvement of late and their world ranking has risen to 77. This is actually regarded as their best ever period in international football and they managed five wins during the qualification campaign. They finished third in their group, behind Portugal and Slovakia. They are desperately trying to reach their first ever major tournament and will go into this match without much trepidation as they have only lost one of their last nine away matches. In that run they have beaten Bosnia and Herzegovina and drawn against Slovakia and Turkey, so they shouldn’t be taken lightly. 


Bosnia & Herzegovina vs Ukraine

The home side will be hoping to make their first appearance at a major tournament since the 2014 WC and will be praying for better luck than their recent attempts. They lost out in the playoffs for the 2012, 2016 and 2020 tournaments so will surely feel that they deserve some luck going their way this time around. They will be disappointed to have ended their qualification campaign with three losses though, a run of results that saw them eventually end up in fifth in their group. They have only won one of their last four matches at home, so home advantage isn’t much of a comfort. Their recent record against Ukraine is not great either as they lost their only meeting against this opponent 2-0 in a qualification match in 2021. A match against Iceland or Israel awaits but Ukraine will certainly be a tough opponent for them to get the better of. 

Ukraine is another team that doesn’t have the best record in playoffs as they have failed to progress from six of the seven playoffs that they have been involved in when trying to reach the finals of major championships. They will be frustrated at having missed out on the finals on goal difference following a goalless draw with Italy in their last match but they go into this match with a good record that reads one defeat in their last eight international matches, with four of those being wins. Amongst their recent positive results is a 3-3 draw in Germany and the fact they are unable to play their home matches in Ukraine means that being drawn away is something they are used to.


Greece vs Kazakhstan

Both of these two teams have made it to this stage thanks to their performances in the Nations League and the winner of this clash will face either Georgia or Luxembourg. Greece will be the more confident of the two teams given their 100% winning record against Kazakhstan. Greece can look back with pride at 2004, even though it’s now twenty years ago, as the year they shocked the football world to win the tournament in Portugal. They have not been able to really build on that though and if they manage to make it through to the tournament in Germany it would be their first appearance at a finals since 2012. Gus Poyet is the man in charge now and he has a good record of eleven wins from his nineteen games in charge. Nine of those eleven wins have included a clean sheet, so defensively they have been strong and they will be confident of stopping their opponent from scoring in this match up.

Kazakhstan have earned a second chance at making it through to the finals courtesy of a win in their Nations League Group C3 and they will be hoping to make it to their first ever finals. Their four previous attempts all ended in elimination but they certainly gave it a good go this time around, managing to record eighteen points from their qualification group. They might only be ranked at number 100 in the world but their recent form has been good, with seven wins from their last ten matches.


Israel vs Iceland

The reward for the winner would be a place in Group E this summer alongside Belgium, Slovakia and Romania, and both these teams will believe they have what it takes to at least win this match and take it to the final hurdle. Israel will have to forego home advantage for this and the match will be played in Hungary, something which will favour Iceland. Israel were eliminated on penalties in the playoffs for the 2020 tournament, with Scotland beating them that time. Their form has not been great and they will need to up their level to get the better of what is likely to be a tricky opponent. Both matches between these two ended in 2-2 draws in the 2022 Nations League. 

This would be the first time Iceland made it to the finals since their memorable run all the way to the quarter-finals in 2016. They have struggled to reach that level since and recent form has not been impressive either, with the Icelandic team losing by two goal margins against Slovakia and Portugal. They have managed friendly wins against Guatemala and Honduras since then, but it is not easy to judge how those results prepare them for this fixture. Iceland have not travelled well of late and only managed one win from five on the road in this qualification campaign and one in their last nine competitive matches on the road.


Poland vs Estonia

The home team will go into this match as heavy favourites and they will be expecting to reach the next round where they will play either Wales or Finland. Both these two teams have made it to this stage thanks to their results in the Nations League. The eventual winner will be rewarded with a place in Group D alongside the Netherlands, Austria and France. Poland are ranked a whopping 93 places above their opponents here and have a seven game unbeaten record at home. They will be expected to make easy work of Estonia, especially given the attacking talents at their disposal. Poland have only ever lost to Estonia once in nine previous meetings.

One positive that the Estonian camp can take going into this match is the fact that the last time these two met resulted in a win for Estonia, although that was a long time ago back in 2012. It would undoubtedly be a shock result should the visitors win this tie but they can go into the match with far less pressure than their hosts. The fact that they are even in the playoffs and two games away from a major competition is, in itself, a big success but the chances of them ending their eleven game winless run is remote. 


Wales vs Finland 

Both of these two teams reached the finals in 2020, so will be somewhat disappointed to find themselves in this predicament. This is the last chance for both these teams to book a place in the festival of football that is set to take place in Germany this summer. Wales manager Rob Page will know that failure to make it to Germany will surely result in him losing his job so he will be grateful for a home tie in the potentially tricky encounter. Wales got past Austria and Ukraine to make it to the WC, only their second ever appearance in that tournament. Both matches were in Cardiff on that occasion and it is the same this time around so they will be hoping that the backing of the noisy home support will be enough to spur them on. Wales have only lost once in Cardiff  in Euro qualification matches since March 2011

Finland are definitely the outsiders coming into this match and are ranked 31 places lower than Wales. They are looking to reach only their second ever major international tournament and will be pleased that they ended their qualification campaign with two wins, albeit against Northern Ireland and San Marino. Finland do not have a good recent record against Wales though, failing to win any of the three meetings that took place in the last decade. The last time Finland beat Wales was back in October 2009.


Last Updated: 20.032024

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