Euro 2016 Play-Offs – First Leg Preview

The European Championship play-offs are now well under way. And we’re all a step closer to finding out which teams will be heading to France next year, and which won’t. There are eight teams competing for four positions, with twenty teams already qualified. Here are how things stand so far.

One of the ties has already been completed. The game was between Hungary and Norway. Hungary won the first leg 1-0, with Laszlo Kleinheisler, making his début, scoring the winning goal. The tie then moved back to Budapest for the second leg, with Hungary again winning the game. Tamas Priskin scored one of the goals for the home side, and an own goal from Markus Henriksen secured by the victory for Hungary. Henriksen did rectify his mistake by putting the ball in the right net, meaning the game finished 2-1. With a 3-1 aggregate victory, Hungary will be heading to their first tournament finals for three decades.

The rest of the games haven’t got this far though. The first leg went pretty well for the Republic of Ireland. Although they didn’t win in their away tie against Bosnia-Herzegovina, a 1-1 draw is a decent result. If they get a goalless draw in the return leg in Dublin, they’ll be heading to France and getting a chance to lift the trophy in Paris. The job is not done yet though. If Bosnia manages to win the game, they’ll be heading to the tournament. Robbie Brady scored in the 82nd minute but a few minutes later, former Manchester City striker Edin Dzeko levelled the score. All is still to play for in Dublin.

Ukraine are on course to make it to the European Championship finals after beating Slovenia 2-0 in Lviv. On the night, the goals were scored by Andriy Yarmolenko and Yevhen Seleznyov. The two teams also met in the Euro 2000 play-off, with Slovenia winning 3-2 that time round. Ukraine will hope that the result is different this time round. As long as they keep things tight at the back, they shouldn’t have too many problems. Slovenia’s recent goalscoring record isn’t great. Anything can happen on the night though. The European Championship play-offs have produced many shocks over the years.

The final tie is a Scandinavian derby between Sweden and Denmark. In the first leg, things started so well for Sweden. Emil Forsberg put the Swedes in front to the delight of the home crowd. And when Zlatan Ibrahimovic put them 2-0 up after 50 minutes, they must have thought that they had the job done already. However, ten minutes from the final whistle, Denmark scored a crucial away goal, leaving the final score 2-1 to Sweden. Denmark will take heart from that late goal and try to build on it in this week’s second leg.

Over the next couple of days, these second leg ties will be played, and we’ll all know the lineup for the 2016 European Championship Finals in France. And that’s when the countdown to the tournament really begins.