IN RECENT DAYS, both Robbie Keane and Giovanni Trapattoni have played down the significance of the team’s 6-1 thrashing by Germany, arguing that Ireland’s primary target has always been to finish second in the group.
However, this is a dangerous policy to adopt for two reasons – namely, as Sweden showed last night, Germany are by no means the indestructible force that many people assumed them to be after the Ireland result, and secondly, because finishing second could mean automatic elimination from the competition.
To break it down into simple terms, there are 13 qualification places up for grabs out of the 53 European teams competing for a place in Rio.
Of the nine groups, the winners qualify automatically, while the eight best runners-up contest the playoffs, with four more places up for grabs.
So since there are only eight places available, only eight of the nine teams who finish second can qualify for a playoff spot.
How the team who misses out is determined is as follows: in order to accommodate Group I, which features a total of five teams, the results of the sides in question against the teams finishing in sixth place in the group are discounted. So in other words, should Ireland finish second, their results against the Faroe Islands most likely won’t be taken into account in ascertaining their eligibility for a playoff spot.
Moreover, the following criteria, as outlined by FIFA, are subsequently measured to determine the eight best runners-up.
1. Highest number of points
2. Goal difference
3. Highest number of goals scored
So should Ireland finish second, their 6-1 hammering by Germany could conceivably cost them a place in the playoffs, as it didn’t do their goal difference any favours.