Euro 2020 confusion reigns ahead of playoff draw

Rome is one of the 12 host cities for next summer's Euro 2020. — AFP
Rome is one of the 12 host cities for next summer's Euro 2020. — AFP

PARIS — The draw for the Euro 2020 playoffs takes place in Nyon on Friday amid widespread confusion over the format and make up of the group stage for next year's finals.

The last four berths in the tournament, which is being hosted in 12 cities, will be decided by March's playoffs, with its 16-team make-up based on performances in the recent inaugural UEFA Nations League.

That gives teams that failed in the main qualifying campaign a second chance to bag a spot, such as Northern Ireland and their neighbors the Republic of Ireland.

The Northern Irish will visit Bosnia and Herzegovina on March 26 while the Republic going to Slovakia the same day, with the winners of those one-off ties meeting five days later with a finals place at stake.

Scotland will have a home play-off against either Bulgaria, Israel, Hungary or Romania. Should they win that, they will then take on Norway or Serbia for a place in the finals.

However, Scotland, Hungary and Romania are all due to host matches next summer, creating a potential headache for organizers should they each qualify for the Euros.

The fact the play-off winners will not be known until just two and a half months before the start of the Euros on June 12, adds another layer of complication.

Meanwhile much of the suspense has already been removed from the draw for the finals, which is being held in Bucharest on Nov. 30, as host nations have to play group games on home turf and certain teams need to be kept apart for geopolitical reasons.

Ukraine and Russia cannot face one another due to the conflict in eastern Ukraine. That means Belgium already know they will face Russia and Denmark — both of whom will host games — in Group B, leaving little suspense come the draw for the finals.

That led to Kevin De Bruyne to call the format a "scandal", while Ronald Koeman, whose Netherlands team have already been placed in Group C with Ukraine, asked the Dutch FA if he could avoid traveling to next week's group stage draw.

Play-off line-up Path A: Iceland plus three from Bulgaria, Israel, Hungary and Romania

Path B: Bosnia and Herzegovina v Northern Ireland; Slovakia v Republic of Ireland

Path C: Scotland v one of Bulgaria, Israel, Hungary or Romania; Norway v Serbia

Path D: Georgia v Belarus; North Macedonia v Kosovo

Play-off draw to be held on Friday, Nov. 22. — AFP