We are now eight months away from the next rendition of the Euros.

The recent round of qualifiers has seen five teams book their place in the final 24 as teams from around the continent jostle for the final places.

Belgium, Italy, Russia, Poland and Ukraine have all endured exceptional campaigns and now put themselves in pole position heading into the final matchday next month but the fates of so many other nations are still unknown.

As this tournament introduces a second round of playoffs which gives some of Europe’s smaller countries a chance at qualifying – the teams who compete on the final stage could vary significantly.

So how are things shaping up heading into the final run of games?

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Group A

England currently are in prime position to return to the Euros as they sit at the top of Group A and just need a win over Montenegro to seal their passage.

A 6-0 win over Bulgaria papered over the cracks of losing to the Czech Republic a week prior who sit three points behind the English but only the singular point ahead of new-comers Kosovo.

The Balkan nation face both the Czech’s and English in their final two games but if they were to miss out on a spot in the top two – they have the security of being guaranteed of a playoff spot due to winning their UEFA Nations League group.

However, bottom place Bulgaria are shockingly enough on their way to a playoff due to Finland currently being second in Group J meaning the Scandinavian’s guarantee of a second chance falls in the favour of the Bulgarians.

Montenegro’s campaign has officially come to an end as they’re too far behind in the rankings and on the table to make a late play.

Group B

Ukraine are the only team in the group who are assured of qualification and also top spot in the group.

Their campaign under the legendary Andriy Shevchenko has seen them finish ahead of reigning European champions Portugal after an incredible victory in Kiev this morning.

However, Portugal shouldn’t have any problem securing their place in the final 24 with clashes against Lithuania and Luxembourg to come in November with wins in both being enough to secure their passage.

Serbia on the other hand are only a point behind and face both Luxembourg and Ukraine in their final two games but are guaranteed of a second-chance through the playoffs if they fail to reach the top two, while the same goes for Portugal if Serbia were to usurp them next month.

Luxembourg are incredibly still a chance if Kosovo were to somehow snatch second spot in Group A – meaning the minnows would find themselves in the playoffs.

Lithuania are also officially eliminated from proceedings.

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Group C

The group of death has provided an enthralling journey for both Germany and the Netherlands who are closing in on their places in the final 24.

The Dutch have missed the last two major tournaments and should seal qualification if they can knock off Northern Ireland on the road and Estonia at home.

While Germany face both Belarus and Northern Ireland in their final two games with both of them being played at home, meaning the 2014 World Champions should be plying their trade in next year’s tourney.

However, the Dutch have the safeguard of a guaranteed playoffs spot should they fall out of the top two while Germany are also in the same boat, pushing Wales into the League B playoffs in the process.

This relies on an incredible rally from Northern Ireland who need to knock off the two powerhouses to reach the final two but even that may not be enough – meaning they will have to go through the playoffs in the process.

Belarus are also guaranteed to get a second chance in the League D playoffs while Estonia are officially eliminated.

Group D

Another tight group sees a massive round of qualifiers yet to come, with the biggest being tomorrow in Geneva.

A win for Ireland over Switzerland will mean they seal their place in the Euros while it will all but confine the Swiss to a playoff spot as they sit four points behind Denmark.

The Irish still need to face Denmark in their next game which creates a difficult road on their path if they fail to beat Switzerland tomorrow but will at least make the playoffs should the unthinkable happen.

The Swiss will play playoffs if they miss out on the top two but still have two more games against both Georgia and Gibraltar to come as they look to put a late run towards a top two finish.

A win for Denmark against Gibraltar should be enough to seal qualification ahead of their huge clash with Ireland on the final day but are also guaranteed to play playoffs should they drop out.

Georgia will play playoffs after winning their Nations League group and are the highest ranked team in the League D playoffs while Gibraltar have been eliminated.

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Group E

Another group destined to go right down to the wire.

World Cup runners-up Croatia currently sit top of the group and one win away from qualification as they face the tall-task of facing Slovakia in Rijeka next month.

Hungary are also closing in on a return to the Euros as they sit two points clear of Slovakia in second and a win on the road to Wales should be enough to get them through.

Slovakia need wins over Croatia and Azerbaijan to stay alive but as of now are looking set to play playoffs alongside Wales who are also still in the hunt for a top two or playoff finish.

Azerbaijan are a small chance of making the playoffs and need a resurgence from the higher ranked League D sides to give themselves a chance of playing in front of their home fans come June.

Group F

The battle for top spot rolls on for another day.

Spain squandered a chance to seal qualification against Norway this past weekend and face a huge task when they face Sweden on the road tomorrow morning.

A win will seal qualification while a loss means they need to wait until November to stamp their place in the Euros next June.

Sweden will have to wait until November to seal their fate as they face Romania and Faroe Islands in November as two wins from those games should be enough to get them through but a playoff spot is guaranteed.

Romania are currently sneaking into a playoff spot but are only a point behind Sweden and face a crunch game against Norway tomorrow which could see them leapfrog the Scandinavian’s before facing them next month.

Norway are set to play playoffs due to winning their Nations League group but can upset the applecart if they can win tomorrow as they face both Malta and Faroe Islands next month meaning they’re still a chance to seal a top two spot.

Malta and the Faroe Islands have been eliminated.

Group G

Poland have sealed qualification in Group G but the race for second could be over very soon.

Austria’s win over Slovenia this morning means that a win over North Macedonia will seal their place in the Euros and effectively eliminate their opponents from this morning who need to make the top two if they want to be there next June.

However, their task is all the more difficult as they need to rely on two Austria defeats and wins over both Latvia and top place Poland to give themselves a chance.

North Macedonia are guaranteed to play League D playoffs but if they defeat Austria next month, their chances of a top two finish are still well and truly alive.

Israel are currently set for a playoff finish while Latvia have been eliminated.

Group H

Turkey and France are yet to be separated and they are closely trailed by Iceland in the hunt for a top two finish.

The draw between the top two sides this morning means their fates won’t be decided until next month as a win for Turkey over Iceland in November will seal their place in the final 24.

The World Champions can also seal their spot should they beat Moldova and Turkey defeat Iceland as well but can also do so if they can defeat Albania in their final game.

Iceland need to defeat to Turkey to stay alive and will need to then rely on a huge upset and a win over Moldova to make the top two but as of now – a playoff finish is on the cards.

Albania are still a chance to make the playoffs but are relying on a lot to go their way while Moldova and Andorra have been eliminated.

Group I

The top two are sealed and a second chance is on the cards for one of Europe’s hard-luck stories.

Belgium and Russia both qualified with relative ease as they steamrolled past their opposition on route to a Euro 2020 birth.

Cyprus have officially been eliminated and can’t make the playoffs alongside Kazakhstan and San Marino but the same can’t be said for Scotland who will have a second crack at qualification.

Their top spot finish in the Nations League means they will be apart of the playoff round and gives them a final chance at ending their major competition drought.

Group J

The Italian’s are back but it’s a question of who joins them.

Italy are back in a major competition after shockingly missing the World Cup and have shown a lot throughout a solid qualification campaign.

Finland who are currently second face a difficult task to hang onto second and a loss to Armenia tomorrow will mean they crash back to potentially as low as fourth.

The silver lining is that they will play playoffs if they miss out due to winning their Nations League group.

Armenia are a shocking chance at getting through and a win tomorrow will keep those hopes alive before they face Greece and Liechtenstein next month.

Bosnia are a win behind Finland and a win over Greece tomorrow could see them close the gap on the Finnish with a win but face the tall-task of Italy next month.

However, they will play playoffs should they miss out after winning their Nations League group while Greece need a miracle to stay alive in the top two hunt or to make playoffs.

Liechtenstein have been eliminated.

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Nick D’Urbano
nicholas.durbano9@gmail.com