If Ireland prevents the Dutch team from winning on Saturday evening, the Dutch team will have to postpone their European Championship qualification. But the Irish actually benefit from a Dutch European Championship ticket. How is that possible? And does Ireland actually want to lose on purpose? Three questions and answers.
What’s going on?
Ireland, which can no longer qualify directly, benefits from the Dutch team’s European Championship qualification. And that will be a fact with a Dutch victory on Saturday in the Johan Cruijff ArenA. The reason has everything to do with the last edition of the Nations League (2022/2023). This forms the basis for the field of participants for the play-offs in March next year, in which three European Championship tickets will be distributed.
A ranking has been drawn up based on the Nations League. The twelve highest-ranking countries in that ranking will get a second chance in the play-offs. But if a country qualifies through the group stage, the play-off ticket moves on to the next team in the rankings.
Ireland is 26th and must therefore hope that fourteen higher ranked countries qualify through the group stage. The Netherlands (fourth place) is one of them and could therefore bring the Irish a little closer to a European Championship ticket. Greece is lower than Ireland, so the Irish have no use for a direct European Championship ticket for the only remaining competitor of the Dutch team.
How does UEFA view an intentional loss?
UEFA is not concerned about it. The European Football Association has already said it has confidence in the “sporting integrity” of Ireland. Moreover, according to the association, it is “statistically very unlikely” that Ronald Koeman’s team will miss out on a European Championship ticket on its own.
If the Netherlands loses to Ireland, the team can still qualify directly for the European Championship. Then the Dutch team must beat Gibraltar on Tuesday. If Greece loses to France that evening, the Netherlands will also qualify.
Is Ireland planning to lose consciously?
The Irish do not make that impression. Defender Dara O’Shea stated at a press conference on Wednesday that he and his teammates would like to beat the Dutch team. “I think we can win,” said the 24-year-old defender. “There’s no reason why not.”
An additional incentive is the expiring contract of national coach Stephen Kenny. The match with the Dutch national team is his penultimate international match as final manager, unless the Irish association extends the contract. “We want to do well for our country,” O’Shea said. “Also for the national coach. The group loves him.”
The same national coach also emphasized at the press conference on Friday that Ireland wants to win at all costs. “We want to finish strong. There have been great Irish teams that have played these types of matches, but they have never managed to achieve a major European victory. It is a fantastic competition to do that now.”