WILL ENGLAND QUALIFY?
Well, despite their mediocre display against England should reach the Euro 2012 finals one way or the other.
ONE WAY OR THE OTHER…?
The nine group winners qualify automatically plus the best runner-up. As things stand Montenegro, second in Group G behind England on goal-difference, would qualify as the ‘fastest losers.’
HOW DO YOU DECIDE WHO IS THE BEST RUNNER-UP?
It is not quite as straightforward as seeing who has the most points. Some groups have six countries, some have five. In groups with six teams only the results against the sides finishing first, third, fourth and fifth are taken into consideration. England are in a five-team group but, for example, Group C has six countries. Italy are the runaway leaders with Slovenia second. Whoever finishes second to Italy would ‘lose’ their points against San Marino who I confidently predict will finish bottom.
IF THE PLAY-OFFS DRAW WERE TODAY WHO WOULD TAKE PART?
Belgium, Russia, Slovenia, Belarus, Sweden, Croatia, Denmark and the Czech Republic.
ARE THE PLAY-OFFS AN OPEN DRAW?
No, They will be seeded. The four runners-up with the best coefficient in UEFA’s national team ranking will be seeded. The seeded teams play the second play-off tie at home, traditionally a significant advantage.
WORST CAST SCENARIO, WOULD ENGLAND BE SEEDED IN THE PLAY-OFFS?
AND IF, NO LET’S BE OPTIMISTIC, WHEN ENGLAND REACH THE FINALS WILL THEY BE ONE OF THE TOP SEEDS?
No. There will be four groups of four. The four top seeds will be joint-hosts Poland and Ukraine, holders Spain plus almost certainly Germany who are second behind Spain in the current European rankings. England would at best be second seeds along with Holland and Italy plus one other side. But as the coefficients take into account the 2012 qualification programme Fabio Capello’s side could be overtaken by Greece, Russia or France.
SO IF/WHEN ENGLAND REACH THE FINALS THERE IS A CHANCE THEY COULD BE THIRD SEEDS?
Yes. That would mean they might be in a group with Spain and Italy or Germany and Holland. To paraphrase Sir Alex Ferguson, that would be serious squeaky bum time.