Since September 7th, 2014—less than two months after the conclusion of last year’s World Cup—we have been watching and wondering about the qualifiers for the 2016 UEFA European Championship. Now, with the conclusion of the final playoff games on November 17th, the qualifiers are officially over, and the Euro 2016 lineup officially confirmed.
The Teams and Seeds
As always, the Euro qualifiers allowed room for eight teams to battle for second chances at reaching the final tournament. The top two teams from each qualifying group qualified directly for Euro 2016, as did the third-place team with the highest point total. (This year, the top-ranking third-place team was Turkey.) The remaining eight third-placers, meanwhile, earned spots in the playoff round.
The eight teams were drawn into four pairings of two, based on UEFA seeding. The seeding compiled data from the UEFA national team coefficient rankings, which themselves were impacted based on the performances of different football teams in the main qualifying competition. Based on those stats, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ukraine, Sweden, and Hungary were the “seeded” teams, while Denmark, Republic of Ireland, Norway, and Slovenia were unseeded.
For the most part, the playoff match-ups worked out more or less as the UEFA had seeded them. Hungary, Sweden, and the Ukraine all earned spots at Euro 2016.
Bosnia and Herzegovina vs. Republic of Ireland
Bosnia and Herzegovina, a soccer squad that the UEFA has repeatedly overrated throughout the qualifying campaign, was the only “seeded” team to miss, losing their two-leg battle with the Republic of Ireland. The first leg of the contest—a November 13th match played in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s home territory—ended in a 1-1 stalemate, with both teams scoring their lone goals within three minutes of one another very late in the game.
The second leg, though, saw the Republic of Ireland using their home field advantage to score a 2-0 win, with striker Jonathan Waters scoring both goals. The win makes the Green Army the second Irish football squad to land a spot in Euro 2016. Northern Ireland qualified for the UEFA soccer tournament after finishing at the top of qualifying Group F.
Ukraine vs. Slovenia
While three of the four seeded teams managed to secure spots in the European Championship, things did get a bit uncomfortable for the Ukrainian national football team in their second match. Drawn against Slovenia, the Ukraine team won the first leg of the match-up 2-0 but fell behind early in the second leg as Slovenia’s Bostjan Cesar scored just 11 minutes into the fixture.
Slovenia only scored that one goal, though, despite creating numerous scoring opportunities and leading the game in possession. When the Ukraine finally equalized the score—with a late, late-game goal from Andriy Yarmolenko, Slovenia’s hopes of a Euro 2016 were finally dashed.
Sweden vs. Denmark
Sweden also had a few moments of fear late in their second leg match against Denmark. The Swedes, driven by the strength of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, were strongly favored to win this match-up and walked away with a 2-1 win in the first leg. The second leg looked to be headed in the same direction, with Ibrahimovic scoring one goal at the 19-minute mark and another at the 76-minute mark before the Danish even countered.
In the last 10 or so minutes, though, Denmark forced their way back into the game. Yussuf Poulsen put Denmark on the board at 81 minutes, and at 90+1, Jannik Vestergaard equalized the score. Had this surge come a bit earlier in the game, the Danes might have been able to score a third goal and force Sweden into extra time. Unfortunately for Denmark, time just ran out. The Swedish national soccer team wins the Euro 2016 spot on a 4-3 aggregate.
Hungary vs. Norway
Of the seeded playoff teams, Hungary had arguably the easiest run to Euro 2016 qualification. With a 1-0 away win against Norway in the first leg and a 2-1 victory in the home leg, the Hungarian national football team were in control for every minute of their playoff performance. (Though, to be fair, Hungary’s second point in the second leg came from a Norwegian own goal.)
Most of these teams won’t see a lot of action until June 10th, when the European Championship officially begins. Until then, though, you can shop with Soccer Box to find an official jersey for your favorite Euro 2016 football team! Are you rooting for an underdog like Hungary or Sweden? A frontrunner like Spain or Germany? Or would you rather pick up a Slovenia shirt 2014/15 in honor of one of the teams that almost qualified? Whatever shirt you’re looking for, you can bet that we have it in stock at Soccer Box! Just be sure to use the coupon code “BLOG2015” to get an easy 12.5% discount on your order.