EURO 2020 play-offs: How they worked

What happened this time? How did they work? Records and statistics.

North Macedonia made their play-off debut – and earned a finals debut
North Macedonia made their play-off debut – and earned a finals debut FFM

What were the play-offs?

Sixteen teams battled it out for the four remaining UEFA EURO 2020 places in the competition's new-look play-offs. And after it all, Hungary, Slovakia, Scotland and North Macedonia completed the 24-nation finals line-up.

Who played who, when and where?

Fixtures were determined by a series of draws in November 2019. Following a decision by the UEFA Executive Committee, the European Qualifiers Play-Offs semi-finals took place on 8 October 2020, with the finals on 12 November.

Play-off semi-finals

Path A: Bulgaria 1-3 Hungary, Iceland 2-1 Romania 
Path B: Bosnia and Herzegovina 1-1 Northern Ireland (pens: 3-4), Slovakia 0-0 Republic of Ireland (pens: 4-2)
Path C: Norway 1-2 Serbia, Scotland 0-0 Israel (pens: 5-3) 
Path D: Georgia 1-0 Belarus, North Macedonia 2-1 Kosovo 

Play-off finals

Path A: Hungary 2-1 Iceland
Path B: Northern Ireland 1-2 Slovakia (aet)
Path C: Serbia 1-1 Scotland (pens: 4-5)
Path D: Georgia 0-1 North Macedonia

Were the play-offs new?

There had been play-offs for five of the last six EUROs, starting with a one-off match between the Netherlands and the Republic of Ireland in Liverpool for EURO '96. The UEFA EURO 2020 play-offs offered a very different format, though. For the first time, teams had to come through more than one round and, unlike all previous editions, sides qualified to participate via the UEFA Nations League rather than the European Qualifiers.

How did the play-offs work?

The sixteen 2018/19 UEFA Nations League group winners were guaranteed play-off places before the European Qualifiers were played during 2019. However, if those teams advanced to the EURO via their European Qualifiers group, their spot went instead to the next best-ranked team in their Nations League section. Where a league did not have four teams to compete (such as League A), remaining slots were allocated to teams from another league, according to the overall UEFA Nations League rankings.

Did teams know who they would potentially play in the EURO finals?

• Path A winners (Hungary) would go into Group F alongside Portugal, France, Germany
• Path B winners (Slovakia) would go into Group E alongside Spain, Sweden, Poland
• Path C winners (Scotland) would go into Group D alongside England, Croatia, Czech Republic
• Path D winners (North Macedonia) would go into Group C alongside Netherlands, Ukraine, Austria

Previous EURO play-off ties

1996: Republic of Ireland 0-2 Netherlands, Liverpool
2000: Scotland 1-2 agg England (0-2 1-0)
2000: Israel 0-8 agg Denmark (0-5 0-3)
2000: Slovenia 3-2 agg Ukraine (2-1 1-1)
2000: Republic of Ireland 1-1 agg Turkey (1-1 0-0, Turkey win on away goals)
2004: Scotland 1-6 agg Netherlands (1-0 0-6)
2004: Croatia 2-1 agg Slovenia (1-1 1-0)
2004: Russia 1-0 agg Wales (0-0 1-0)
2004: Latvia 3-2 agg Turkey (1-0 2-2)
2004: Spain 5-1 agg Norway (2-1 3-0)
2012: Turkey 0-3 agg Croatia (0-3 0-0)
2012: Estonia 1-5 agg Republic of Ireland (0-4 1-1)
2012: Czech Republic 3-0 agg Montenegro (2-0 1-0)
2012: Bosnia and Herzegovina 2-6 agg Portugal (0-0 2-6)
2016: Ukraine 3-1 agg Slovenia (2-0 1-1)
2016: Sweden 4-3 agg Denmark (2-1 2-2)
2016: Bosnia and Herzegovina 1-3 agg Republic of Ireland (1-1 0-2)
2016: Norway 1-3 agg Hungary (0-1 1-2)

Records and statistics

Most play-off goals

3 Zlatan Ibrahimović (Sweden)
3 Robbie Keane (Republic of Ireland)
3 Jon Dahl Tomasson (Denmark)
3 Ruud van Nistelrooy (Netherlands)
3 Jon Walters (Republic of Ireland)

Biggest play-off win (tie)

Denmark 8-0 agg Israel, 1999

Biggest play-off win (match)

Netherlands 6-0 Scotland, 2003

Highest scoring play-off (tie)

Denmark 8-0 agg Israel, 1999
Bosnia and Herzegovina 2-6 agg Portugal, 2011

Highest scoring play-off (match)

Portugal 6-2 Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2011

Scoring the first goal

The side scoring first has won 22 of 28 EURO play-off ties (two finished goalless). The exceptions:

2000: Slovenia 3-2 agg Ukraine (2-1 1-1)
2000: Republic of Ireland 1-1 agg Turkey (1-1 0-0, Turkey win on away goals)
2004: Scotland 1-6 agg Netherlands (1-0 0-6)
2004: Spain 5-1 agg Norway (2-1 3-0)
2020 semi-final: Bosnia and Herzegovina 1-1 Northern Ireland (3-4 on pens)
2020 final: Hungary 2-1 Iceland

Losing the first leg

Only one team has ever lost the first leg and advanced in the EURO play-offs: in 2003, the Netherlands overturned a 1-0 defeat in Scotland with a 6-0 win at home.

Play-off hat-tricks

Ruud van Nistelrooy is the only player to score a play-off hat-trick, in the Netherlands' 6-0 second-leg thrashing of Scotland in 2003.

Winning both legs

Only four teams have won both games of a two-legged play-off tie (out of 17):

Denmark (v Israel, 1999)
Spain (v Norway, 2003)
Czech Republic (v Montenegro, 2011)
Hungary (v Norway, 2015)

Play-off winners at EURO finals

• Semi-finals: Netherlands (2004), Portugal (2012)
• Quarter-finals: Netherlands (1996), Turkey (2000), Czech Republic (2012)
• Round of 16: Hungary (2016), Republic of Ireland (2016)

The remaining 11 play-off winners bowed out after the group stage.

EURO play-off record 

Belarus*: W0 L1
Bosnia and Herzegovina*: W0 L3
Bulgaria*: W0 L1
Croatia: W2 L0
Czech Republic: W1 L0
Denmark: W1 L1
England: W1 L0
Estonia: W0 L1
Georgia*: W1 L1
Hungary*: W3 L0
Iceland*: W1 L1
Israel*: W0 L2
Kosovo*: W0 L1
Latvia: W1 L0
Montenegro: W0 L1
Netherlands: W2 L0
Northern Ireland*: W1 L1
North Macedonia*: W2 L0
Norway*: W0 L3
Portugal: W1 L0
Republic of Ireland*: W2 L3
Romania*: W0 L1
Russia: W1 L0
Scotland*: W2 L2
Serbia*: W1 L1
Slovakia*: W2 L0
Slovenia: W1 L2
Spain: W1 L0
Sweden: W1 L0
Turkey: W1 L2
Ukraine: W1 L1
Wales: W0 L1

*Including UEFA EURO 2020

Trivia

• Two teams have scored six goals in their play-off second legs: the Netherlands in 2003 and Portugal in 2011. Both would reach the semi-finals at the following summer’s tournament.

• There had never been a goalless play-off tie until two happened in one night on 8 October 2020: Slovakia vs Republic of Ireland and Scotland vs Israel.

• Scotland are the first team to qualify for the EURO via a penalty shoot-out (the same method by which they got to their play-off final).

• Patrick Kluivert scored the first play-off goal: for the Dutch against Ireland on 13 December 1995. He also scored the second!

EURO play-offs: potted history

• EURO ‘96: First play-off sees two runners-up with fewest points meet in one-off tie at neutral Anfield.

• EURO 2000: Two-legged play-offs introduced, four ties featuring eighth lowest-ranked qualifying group runners-up.

• EURO 2004: Two-legged play-offs involving all ten qualifying group runners-up.

• EURO 2008: No play-offs.

• EURO 2012: Return to EURO 2000 format, repeated for EURO 2016.

• EURO 2020: Once again, four play-off tickets available for final tournament, though this time sides took part based on performance in 2018/19 UEFA Nations League rather than performance in EURO qualifying groups; 16 teams contested two rounds of one-off ties.