EURO 2016

Everything Northern Ireland fans need to know about qualification before Ukraine clash

EURO 2016By Stephen Looney
Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill
Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill

Northern Ireland fans and commentators are nervously checking UEFA rules for qualification ahead of this evening's game against Ukraine

Having lost the opening game in Nice to Poland, Michael O'Neill's team will be hoping for victory over Ukraine today in Lyon.

Third placed teams can qualify for the next stage, but the bottom line is that if Northern Ireland lose to Ukraine and Germany do NOT lose to Poland in Paris later on tonight, Northern Ireland are OUT.

This is because both Poland and Ukraine will have better head-to-head records against Northern Ireland, so even in the unlikely that the boys in green beat Germany next Tuesday, three points will not be enough.

The four best third-placed teams are determined according to the following criteria:
1.      Higher number of points obtained;
2.      Superior goal difference;
3.      Higher number of goals scored;
4.      Fair play conduct;
5.      Position in the UEFA national team co-efficient ranking system.
If two or more teams are equal on points on completion of the group matches, the following tie-breaking criteria will be applied:
1.      Higher number of points obtained in the matches played between the teams in question;
2.      Superior goal difference resulting from the matches played between the teams in question;
3.      Higher number of goals scored in the matches played between the teams in question;
4.      If, after having applied criteria 1 to 3, teams still have an equal ranking (e.g. if criteria 1 to 3 are applied to three teams that were level on points initially and these criteria separate one team from the other two who still have an equal ranking), criteria 1 to 3 are reapplied exclusively to the matches between the teams who are still level to determine their final rankings. If this procedure does not lead to a decision, criteria 5 to 9 apply;
5.      Superior goal difference in all group matches;
6.      Higher number of goals scored in all group matches;
7.      If only two teams have the same number of points, and they are tied according to criteria 1–6 after having met in the last round of the group stage, their ranking is determined by a penalty shootout. (This criterion is not used if more than two teams have the same number of points.)
8.      Fair play conduct (1 point for a single yellow card, 3 points for a red card as a consequence of two yellow cards, 3 points for a direct red card, 4 points for a yellow card followed by a direct red card);
9.      Position in the UEFA co-efficient ranking system.

Up to 18,000 Northern Ireland fans are expected in the Stade de Lyon this evening.

The Irish FA have sold 13,000 tickets directly, and thousands more were snapped up when UEFA put them on the open market.