Fair play, goals and UEFA rankings: What counts for Scotland's Euro 2020 qualification hopes - if they beat Croatia

It’s win or bust for Scotland against Croatia – and even then it might not be enough.

There's plenty to work-out when it comes to the third-placed teams' qualification route - but Scotland have to win first and foremost (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
There's plenty to work-out when it comes to the third-placed teams' qualification route - but Scotland have to win first and foremost (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

The national team – without Billy Gilmour – simply MUST win against Croatia on Tuesday if they wish to move off the bottom of Group D and into the mix for the knock-out stages.

Four third-placed teams from the six groups will qualify with the top two from each section, so even finishing third is no guarantee. All third-placed teams will be measured against one another to decide who takes the top four places and which two drop out.

To be in with a chance of third, we know Scotland have to win and finish on four points – so what then? It’s a potentially common tally for the third placed teams across the groups given results so far, so what counts when deciding the top four third-placed finishers?

The permutations could become a real head scratcher is many teams finish on four points with similar goal differences (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

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UEFA have five criteria to select the superior sides in such an instance – and all without the drawing of lots.

Goal difference

This is fairly arbitrary and universally used.

The team which has the most favourable goal margin over their aggregated group-stage scores takes the higher position. This is used in league football too, so comes as no surprise.

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Disciplinary records may come into play (Photo by FACUNDO ARRIZABALAGA/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Goals scored

If the margin of goal difference between those scored and conceded is the same between two sides then, again as is fairly commonplace, the goals scored is measured with the team with the most prolific attack (albeit with the more porous defence too, given the goal difference) takes the higher place among the third-placed teams.

Win-rate

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If the teams still can’t be separated then the team with the most wins would then hold the trump card.… after three games, it’s a bit unlikely this one will be a factor for Euro 2020.

Disciplinary record

It’s really getting into the finer details now and a card-count will be tallied along the Fair Play rules and the most disciplined team – or least ill-disciplined – will take the higher placing. That Stephen O’Donnell tackle on Jack Grealish might have a bearing after all….

UEFA Ranking

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And after all that, if it still comes to the crunch, the world ranking will be used and the higher team progresses. Scotland are currently 44th.

*Head-to-head record also comes into play within groups.

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