With England suffering a heartbreaking last minute equaliser at the hands of Russia, I wondered about the possible scenarios that could happen to England in the following matches against Wales and Slovakia.
One of these scenarios was England finishing third which usually leads to a team getting knocked out, but this tournament has a unique structure due to there being twenty four teams which leads to four third placed finishers in the group stages going through. This led me to do some research on how many points would be needed to qualify as one of the best four third placed finishers which is detailed in the article below.
The Euros have never had this amount of teams before, so there’s not really any example that could be pulled out of its history. Instead, the World Cup has the best example to use due to the similar quality of teams in both competitions. The 1994 World Cup in the US had the exact same format as Euro 2016 because it had 24 teams in six groups of four with the top four third placed finishes in the group stages going through along with the top two in each group to make up the numbers for the round of sixteen.
There are other world cups such as 1986 and 1990 where the format was the same, but they had two points for a win rather than three which meant that draws were a lot more useful in those competitions as seen by the sheer amount of them in the group stages. Also, the 1998 World Cup had 32 teams which meant they had no need for the best third placed finishers, so that World Cup can’t be used as an example either.
In the 1994 World Cup: Argentina, Belgium, United States and Italy all qualified for the round of sixteen by being the four best placed third finishers. Argentina and Belgium finished with six points which would have been a harsh exit from the tournament in past tournaments, and the United States and Italy both finished with four points. While Russia and South Korea failed to get through to the next round after finishing with three and two points respectively
This evidence suggests that four points is the minimum teams need to get through to the next round which gives hope to the teams that either drew or lost their first games because that isn’t an impossible amount to get, and maybe reduces the pressure slightly because I’m sure some of the coaches will have this in the back of their minds. Some teams such as Wales and Hungary can rejoice in the fact that two draws or a win in their next two matches will secure them passage into the next round, if we’re just using the 1994 World Cup as an example, which is a major step for both countries.
Traditionally 6 points guarantees a team passage to the next round from the group stages in big tournaments the majority of the time, but now that teams have a bit more security due to not requiring such a high amount of points may mean that the games in the final group matches might not be as cagey as the usually would be. This in turn means we might see more attack minded performances which would increase the excitement of the matches for neutrals and fans alike.
Personally, I hope that England don’t have to resort to a third place finish to get through, and I hope that they manage to beat Wales. However, four teams will benefit from this added ‘security net’, and maybe one of them will take advantage of this by getting further in to the tournament. Maybe the major surprise of the tournament will be one of the teams that benefits from these additional routes of getting to the next round.