The group stage of qualifying for the UEFA EURO 2020 tournament is over. It provided 20 of the 24 teams that are set to compete in next year’s big event.
The draw for the 16 teams involved in the playoff phase to determine the four remaining places took place on Friday. Nothing about the 2020 edition of the European Championships even remotely resembles anything logical.
UEFA selected the 16 playoff teams not based on their performance in qualifying, but rather based on their performance in the Nations League that preceded it.
Meaning that the highest ranked 16 Nations League sides of those not making the EURO directly, got this second chance.
The continental governing body divided these teams into four paths, loosely based on the four leagues of the Nations League. Each path contains two single-legged semifinals and one winner- take-all final.
Now let us get to the matchups in each path.
Path A: Iceland vs. Romania and Bulgaria vs. Hungary.
Path B: Bosnia and Herzegovina vs. Northern Ireland as well as Slovakia vs. Republic of Ireland.
Path C: Scotland vs. Israel and Norway vs. Serbia.
Path D: Georgia vs. Belarus and North Macedonia vs. Kosovo.
The date for these listed semifinals is March 26, while the date for the final in each path (between the winners of the corresponding path semifinals) is on March 31 of 2020.
While I know that the international soccer calendar is so full that it leaves no alternative, it is quite odd that the last four places of a major tournament like EURO 2020 will not be determined until less than three full months before said tournament begins.
This is what happens when soccer administrators cannot stop adding more matches and tournaments. As a Bosnian, I should be happy that my native national team gets a second chance after their abysmal qualifying group stage, but as a soccer fan, I am not.