Despite picking up only a point from its entire European Championships 2024 qualification matches, the Estonian men's national football team is still in with a shot at making it to the finals in Germany next summer, thanks in part to the Czech Republic's win over Moldova Monday evening.
This makes Estonia a Johnny-come-lately to the play-offs, but in any case, the team will face either Croatia or Poland in the first round, next March.
This gives Estonia a chance at qualifying via this route even as Sweden, who beat Estonia 2:0 at home on Sunday and finished in third place on 10 points, are out.
This is the case due to the complexities of the UEFA rules on national team rankings and their division into four leagues, A, B, C and D, along UEFA Nations League rankings.
While Estonia's qualification campaign ended Sunday (see table above), there are still several more matches across the groups to be played tonight, Tuesday, which also affects the team and some other countries' teams too.
Three spots are available at next summer's finals in Germany for teams who qualify via the play-off route, and thanks to the Czech Republic's 3:0 home win over a 10-men Moldova on Monday evening, Estonia is one of the teams now entering those play-offs.
Estonia tops the 2022–23 UEFA Nations League D, and while this alone does not guarantee a play-off spot, since an insufficient number of national teams from divisions A to D made it to the finals, Estonia has made up the numbers in the play-offs category.
In addition to the Czech Republic's win, Italy's Group C goalless draw against Ukraine on Monday was sufficient to see Gli Azzurri make it to Germany also.
As a result, on March 21 next year, Estonia are to play away either against Croatia or Poland as things stand. The Estonians are due to face the highest ranking non-qualified team, which will be either of those two nations – ie. Croatia or Poland.
The latter, who finished third in Group E, are in the play-offs; Croatia have one game to play tonight, against Armenia – the result of which decides who meets Estonia (Croatia still has a chance of advancing to the finals direct).
All will be made clear this evening, when the final qualification games for Euro 2024 have been played.
Under UEFA's play-offs system, teams that fail in the qualifying group stage can still qualify
The team selection process will determine the twelve teams that will compete in the play-offs based on the Nations League overall rankings. Leagues A, B, and C (see below) each form a path with the four best-ranked teams not yet qualified.
Since one of those leagues has fewer than four non-qualifying teams, spots are taken first by the best group winner from League D, unless already qualified. Since Estonia finished top of League D but has not qualified, it thus makes up the numbers.
Estonia has never qualified for the European Championships to date.
Back in 1992, Denmark famously won the tournament having not initially qualified. This was due to the ejection of Yugoslavia from the competition after the breakup of that country and the ensuing war.
Editor: Andrew Whyte, Kristjan Kallaste