The draw for the 2016 European Championship was held earlier today at the Palais des Congres Acropolis in Nice, France amid all of the appropriate pomp and circumstance. I’m sure there are many things of interest to be discussed across the nine different groups, like which one is the “Group of Death” (I don’t think there is one), but really, here at the Tanner Ba’ we’re really only interested in Group D, aren’t we? Scotland have been drawn into the following group- I’ve noted each nation’s current FIFA ranking:
The top two nations will progress directly to the finals, the top third place finisher (over all groups) will also progress directly to the finals, all other third place nations will be involved in a playoff to see who progresses to the finals.
It doesn’t take much to see from this list, or history, or watching Germany play, that they are likely going to be the run away winners of this group. After that, however, a bit of uncertainty creeps in. By the numbers, the second place finisher should be Scotland, but given the
unreliability fluidity of UEFA/FIFA’s rankings I think it’s a bit more rational to think that Scotland, Ireland, and Poland will be on roughly equal footing and competing for the second spot with Georgia waiting in the wings if one more of those nations slip up. Gibraltar, UEFA’s newest “nation” (hence their lack of rank) will be a distant sixth and will probably consider it a good tournament if they score a goal or two and keep Germany under double digits in their two matches with them.
But back to Scotland.
Given how even the other eight groups look, I can’t see this as anything but a great opportunity to qualify for the finals. There can be no complaints about it being too tough of a group, nor can anyone anticipate a walk in the proverbial park. Plus, Scotland manager Gordon Strachan said he was “excited” about the group, so that’s good. Anyway, there’s really only one thing left to look at- how do Scotland qualify? There’s no point in discussing scenarios where Scotland sweep the group or are swept from the group as neither of those is a likely outcome. However, I think there is a scenario grounded in reality that is, for lack of a better word, reasonable.
This is, for me, the “best case” scenario, the one in which Scotland generally does it’s best, maybe gets a lucky break or two and nothing too crazy (Gibraltar beating Germany, for example) happens in the rest of the group. Here it is:
This scenario gives Scotland 19 points. In the 2012 tournament 19 points would have won two groups (G and H), finished second in three groups (A, C, and I) and third in the remaining four groups (B, D, E, & F), in short, 19 points is more likely to qualify for second than not (5 groups to 4).
I can see the group finishing like this:
That may seem like a lot of points for Germany, but keep in mind that in 2012 they ran the table against a similar group (Turkey, Austria, Belgium, Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan) for 30 points. My point, however, is that even if Scotland were to lose both matches against Germany and Poland and Ireland both managed draws against them, Scotland still finishes ahead of them.
I could run permutations for days, but it really comes down to one thing: qualification is there for Scotland if they want it, and I think for the first time in years, they do.