The European Championship qualifiers drew to a close on Tuesday with 20 teams confirming their direct ticket to the tournament. Here are the Winners and Losers. Bet on football here.
Belgium and Italy
These two European giants were the only teams to finish with a perfect record. Belgium did so while scoring 40 goals and conceding just three in ten games. Roberto Martinez’s side will obviously be one of the favourites in next year’s tournament. The Red Devils have now won 14 of their 16 matches since finishing third at the World Cup finals in Russia in 2018. Meanwhile, the Italians completed their perfect qualifying campaign on Monday after hammering Armenia 9-1. This was the first time the Azzurri qualified for a major tournament with a 100% record.
Finland’s 3-0 victory over Liechtenstein last Friday sealed their place in Euro 2020, their first-ever major tournament. The win brought to an end a run of 32 failed qualifying campaigns for either the World Cup or European Championship. The Finns finished second in Group J behind Italy. With the first step done and dusted, the real test awaits next year. Can they carry these performances to the big stage?
After missing two major tournaments; the 2016 European Championship and the 2018 World Cup, the giants of European football and pioneers of Total Football were experiencing a decline. Fast forward a few years later, they’ve qualified for the 2020 Euro tournament and picked up huge wins along the way. Since Ronald Koeman was appointed in February 2018, they’ve beaten France, England, Germany twice and reigning European champions Portugal. Are they the dark horses for next year’s tournament?
Ryan Giggs and Wales
Wales 2-0 win over Hungary on Tuesday sealed their place in Euro 2020. After losing to Hungary in June, their chances of qualifying for the Euros for the second successive time were in tatters. Since that painful loss, they won four and drew two of their next six matches. Head coach Ryan Giggs was an unpopular appointment early last year but after taking Wales to only their third major tournament in their history, he deserves some credit. The Welshmen qualified for Euro 2016, ending a 58-year absence in a major tournament and produced a magnificent performance going all the way to the semis. Can they replicate that next year?
After taking Spain to Euro 2020 with an unbeaten record in their qualifying campaign, Spain manager Roberto Moreno was replaced by Luis Enrique who stepped down five months ago for personal reasons. Moreno, who was in charge as Spain beat Romania 5-0 on Monday, said he would step aside if Enrique wanted to return. Spanish football federation said Moreno would leave and not go back to his former role which is baffling since he was handed a contract which was to run until the end of Euro 2020. Enrique is Spain’s fifth manager in 17 months. Will that affect them heading into the tournament?
Although Scotland will have to wait for the play-offs to determine if they will compete in their first major tournament in 21 years, it was another bleak qualifying campaign. Steve Clarke’s men suffered five defeats in their ten qualifying matches. Their home form was poor. They lost at home to Belgium and Russia. The 3-0 defeat away to Kazakhstan was particularly calamitous. They’ll face either Bulgaria, Hungary, Israel or Romania in March in the play-offs. Given the tournament was increased to 24 teams starting in 2016, Scotland should probably be doing much better.
Serbia failure to win matches they needed to win meant they couldn’t qualify for Euro 2020 automatically. They finished third in Group B, meaning they still have a chance to qualify via the play-off. With Ukraine the obvious runaway group winners, second place was contested by Serbia and reigning European champions Portugal. The home loss to Portugal and a draw against already qualified Ukraine proved to be the final blow for them. They haven’t qualified for the last four tournaments. Can they do it via the play-offs in March?