10 September 2019 – Croatia went to the top of their EURO 2020 qualifying group last night despite dropping two points in Baku against Azerbaijan.
Croatia’s point from its 1-1 draw with Azerbaijan, coupled with Hungary losing to Slovakia 2-1, means Zlatko Dalic’s side now leads Group E with three games remaining.
Croatia’s fate for qualifying for EURO 2020 is clearly in their own hands. Three victories in the final three group games against Hungary, Wales and Slovakia would mean a first-place finish and direct qualification.
With the top two teams in the group qualifying directly, Croatia could finish second and still book their ticket. If Croatia was to finish first or second equal on points with another team in the group then the first and second-place team would be determined using a number of rules, firstly higher number of points obtained in the matches played among the teams in question, then superior goal difference in matches played among the teams in question.
If Croatia was to miss out on the top two spots in the group, then there still could be a path to EURO 2020 via the qualifying play-offs where the remaining 4 teams for the finals will be found.
16 teams will be selected for the play-offs, which will be held in March 2020, based on their performance in the 2018–19 UEFA Nations League. These teams will be divided into four paths, each containing four teams, with one team from each path qualifying for the final tournament. Each league will have its own play-off path if at least four teams have not already qualified in the conventional qualifying group stage.
The Nations League group winners will automatically qualify for the play-off path of their league. If a group winner has already qualified through the qualifying group stage, they will be replaced by the next best-ranked team in the same league. However, if there are not enough non-qualified teams in the same league, then the spot will go to the next best team in the overall ranking. However, group winners cannot face teams from a higher league.
Each play-off path will feature two single-leg semi-finals, and one single-leg final.
Croatia finished the 2018-18 UEFA Nations League in 9th position, so if at least 5 nations who finished better than Croatia in the 2018-18 UEFA Nations League qualify directly for EURO 2020, then Croatia would go into the playoff. This seems highly likely with Portugal, England, Belgium, Spain, Italy and France strong contenders.
Group E fixtures:
Croatia – Hungary
Slovakia – Wales
Wales – Croatia
Hungary – Azerbaijan
Croatia – Slovakia
Azerbaijan – Wales
Slovakia – Azerbaijan
Wales – Hungary