Euros group stage qualification: How do best third-placed teams work?


uro 2020 is well underway and as the group stage moves towards its final round of fixtures, all eyes turn to the permutations for last-16 qualification.

Euro 2016 was the first European Championships after UEFA decided to expand the tournament to feature 24 teams – a move which has complicated things as far as qualifying for the knockout rounds in comparison to the old 16-team format.

But fear not – here’s everything you need to know…

How many teams qualify for the knockout stage?

The group stage consists of a total of 24 teams, split into six groups of four.

Of those 24 teams, 16 progress to the first knockout round.

The top two in each group go through automatically, along with the four third-placed teams that finish the group stages with the best records.

How are group placings decided if points are level?

If two or more teams are level on points at the end of the group stage, head-to-head record is used as the first tie-breaker to determine their final rankings.

This is followed by goal difference and goals scored in the matches between the teams in question, followed by goal difference, goals scored, most wins and then disciplinary record across the group as a whole.

However, if two teams that play each other on the final day of the group stage are level on points, goals scored and conceded – and are not level with any other side – a penalty shootout will be used to decide their placings.

For full information on tie-breakers, check out the UEFA website here.

Euro 2020: Tournament preview

How are the four best third-placed teams decided?

The ranking of the third-placed teams follows a similar set of rules to those which determine group placings, except there is no head-to-head record to go on as none of the teams have faced one another in the group stage.

As a result, if teams are level on points the tie-breakers are, in order: goal difference, goals scored, wins, disciplinary record and position in European Qualifier rankings.

Who do the third-placed teams play in the last-16?

In short, each of the four third-placed teams that qualify will play against a team that won their group in the last-16.

UEFA has a pre-determined tournament bracket that changes depending on which four groups provide the best third placed teams, which you can view here.

Teams will not play against a team that they have already faced in the group stage.

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