Big teams to benefit from the Euro 2024 expansion to 24 teams

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Per reports, the number of teams that will play in the Euro 2024 has increased to 24

The expansion of Euro 2024 to 24 teams has resulted in an unintended consequence, as six teams have already secured a high chance of qualifying for the tournament in Germany after just two rounds of matches. 

With 20 teams qualifying automatically and three more through playoffs, in addition to the host country, the level of uncertainty and risk at the top end of the event has significantly decreased.

According to a research simulation conducted by data company Nielsen Gracenote, several countries including Switzerland, Portugal, France, England, Belgium, and Serbia have a high probability of qualifying for Euro 2024 without playoffs. Croatia, Poland, Czech Republic, Spain, and the Netherlands are also expected to progress with over an 80% chance of direct qualification, despite losing or drawing one of their opening games. 

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Additionally, five other teams have at least an 80% chance of finishing in the top two of their groups. Gracenote predicts the 20 most likely automatic qualifiers to be Switzerland, Portugal, France, England, Belgium, Serbia, Croatia, Poland, Czech Republic, Spain, Hungary, the Netherlands, Denmark, Scotland, Romania, Italy, Wales, Slovenia, Austria, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. 

This is a significant change from previous tournaments, where qualifying matches were tense and one mistake could cause a team to miss out, especially when the tournament only comprised four teams up to 1980, eight teams until 1996, and 16 teams until the 2021 edition when it expanded to 24 teams.

In the past, several European football teams, including Italy, France, England, and the Netherlands, have failed to qualify for major tournaments despite being previous champions or at the peak of their performance. 

Belgium also struggled to qualify for almost three decades, missing out on six out of seven editions from 1988-2012. However, with the expected smooth progress of the continent’s heavyweights and some upwardly mobile cruiserweights, the excitement now shifts to countries that have traditionally never or rarely had a realistic hope of making the finals. 

Gracenote predicts that if the “top 20” teams qualify, the most likely 12 to make the playoffs are Kazakhstan, Georgia, Greece, Estonia, Israel, Iceland, Ukraine, Turkey, Norway, Finland, Ireland, and Albania. The qualification picture is also complicated by the impact of the Nations League, which is reaching its conclusion this week.

“The 12 teams that won their Nations League A, B or C groups – Netherlands, Croatia, Spain, Italy, Israel, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Scotland, Georgia, Greece, Turkey and Kazakhstan – are guaranteed a playoff place for the last three spots at Euro 2024 if they don’t finish in the top two of their qualifying groups,” said Simon Gleave, head of sports analysis at Nielsen’s Gracenote.

“Kazakhstan (93%), Georgia (85%) and Greece (85%) have a very high chance of participating in the playoffs due to being both group winners in Nations League group C and having slim chances of finishing in the top two of their qualifying groups. Nations League group D’s top team Estonia have an 82% chance of playing in the Path A playoffs for Euro 2024.”

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