Thursday 5 September 2019 5:26 pm

Home affairs: All five British Isles teams can still reach Euro 2020 and lend tournament a distinctly British flavour

For a tournament that is supposed to be pan-continental there is already a distinctly British flavour to next summer’s European Championship.

Of 51 matches, 10 will be staged in London or Glasgow, with Wembley hosting both semi-finals and the final.

But the Britishness could yet go up several notches, with all five British Isles teams still in contention to qualify.

Read more: Why England’s rivals will be taking note

Only twice before have four made it to the same major international tournament; only once – in 1958 – have all four Home Nations done so.

How many make it to Euro 2020 will be determined over the next two months, starting with the resumption of qualifiers this week.


England, who host Bulgaria tomorrow at Wembley and Kosovo on Tuesday in Southampton, look all but certain to reach the 24-team finals.

They sit top of Group A, above rivals who have played more games, having begun their campaign with back-to-back five-goal victories over the Czech Republic and Montenegro.

With the first two in each group assured of a place in November’s draw, it would take a monumental reversal in fortunes to fall behind the Czechs and Kosovo, currently second and third.

Even in that unlikely event, England would have a second chance to qualify via the play-offs next March, by virtue of having won their Nations League group.

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland are, perhaps surprisingly, the Home Nation currently best placed to join England at the finals.

BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - MARCH 24: Steve Davis of Northern Ireland and Yuri Kovalev of Belarus during the 2020 UEFA European Championships group C qualifying match between Northern Ireland and Belarus at Windsor Park on March 24, 2019 in Belfast, United Kingdom. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Northern Ireland have taken maximum points so far. Credit: Getty

Michael O’Neill’s side sit proudly above both Germany and Holland atop Group C, having plundered maximum points from their four qualifying matches so far.

The bad news is that they are still to face the Germans and the Dutch, who both have games in hand on them. Jogi Low’s men visit Windsor Park on Monday.

Republic of Ireland

Mick McCarthy’s Republic of Ireland are also sitting pretty at the summit of Group D.

DUBLIN, IRELAND - JUNE 10: James McClean of Ireland shoots during the UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifying Group D match between Ireland and Gibraltar at Aviva Stadium on June 10, 2019 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
The Republic of Ireland have also made a strong start to qualifying. Credit: Getty

The Swiss and Denmark are their chief rivals for a top-two finish and, again, both have games in hand on the Irish.

But the Republic, who reached the last 16 in France three years ago, have put themselves in a strong position to reach a third successive European Championship.


Euro 2016 semi-finalists Wales face perhaps the toughest task of the British Isles teams.

Wales' forward Gareth Bale (R) vies with Hungary's forward Adam Szalai (2nd L) during the UEFA Euro 2020 qualifier Group E football match Hungary against Wales on June 11, 2019 in Budapest. (Photo by ATTILA KISBENEDEK / AFP)        (Photo credit should read ATTILA KISBENEDEK/AFP/Getty Images)
Wales will hope to get back on track against Azerbaijan. Credit: Getty

They lie fourth of five teams in Group E, behind leaders Hungary, Slovakia and Croatia, on three points after three games.

More positively, they have already played their two most daunting fixtures, away to Hungary and Croatia, and lost only narrowly on each occasion.

Tonight’s visit of whipping boys Azerbaijan to Cardiff is a must-win if they are to get back on track for only a third major tournament in the team’s history.


Scotland, too, have some catching up to do after a slow start to Group I, which included a 3-0 defeat to Kazakhstan.

Alex McLeish paid the price for that embarrassing result and Steve Clarke replaced him in May, leading his new charges to a win over Cyprus on debut followed by a loss to runaway group leaders Belgium.

Scotland’s challenge is to catch the other teams ahead of them, Kazakhstan and Russia, who visit tonight in a six-pointer.

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - JUNE 08: Andy Robertson of Scotland scores the opening goal during the European Qualifier for UEFA Euro 2020 at Hampden Park on June 08, 2019 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
Andy Robertson is one of a handful of Premier League stars in the Scotland side. Credit: Getty

With Clarke at the helm and Liverpool’s Andy Robertson, Manchester United’s Scott McTominay, Aston Villa’s John McGinn and Bournemouth’s Ryan Fraser making their mark in the Premier League, there is a sense that years of decline could be in reverse at last.

And should they fail to qualify from their group, they would be guaranteed a second chance via the play-offs.

With Hampden Park set to host three group games, Scotland – like all the British Isles nations – can look forward to the next best thing to a home tournament if they can reach the tournament proper.

Main image credit: Getty