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EURO 2020 play-offs: semi-finals preview

UEFA.com's lowdown on the eight one-off ties that take place on 8 October.

Serbia players training in Norway
Serbia players training in Norway NTB/AFP via Getty Images

Sixteen teams will participate in the competition's new-look play-offs for the remaining four spaces at UEFA EURO 2020. The eight semi-finals all take place on Thursday 8 October, with four final ties then scheduled for 12 November. UEFA.com looks through the first tranche of matches.

Meet the 20 qualified teams

Path A: Bulgaria v Hungary (20:45)

European Qualifiers: How the play-offs work
European Qualifiers: How the play-offs work

The home side's last appearance in the finals was 2004 and they will have to belie their form since the inaugural UEFA Nations League if they are to progress – Bulgaria picked up just one win in EURO qualifying and that is their sole success in 16 matches. Hungary's recent results are little better – six defeats in eight games – but their recent victory in Turkey, coupled with their run to the round of 16 in UEFA EURO 2016 via the play-offs, suggests they relish the big occasion.

Path A: Iceland v Romania (20:45) 

Iceland were the great overachievers at EURO 2016, beating England en route to the last eight, and won four of their five home matches in the qualifying campaign this time around so will feel confident in a one-off contest in Reykjavik. Romania have reached four of the last six EUROs – progressing directly from their qualifying group – yet have history hanging over them having lost both their previous FIFA World Cup play-offs.

Path B: Bosnia and Herzegovina v Northern Ireland (20:45)

Highlights: Italy 1-1 Bosnia and Herzegovina
Highlights: Italy 1-1 Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia and Herzegovina have fallen at this stage in each of the last two editions but may take comfort from the fact they did not lose the home leg on either occasion. Clean sheets have been hard to come by for both these teams, with Northern Ireland shipping 12 goals in their last four away games, so Ian Baraclough's charges will need to tighten up if they are to book a second consecutive EURO ticket.

Path B: Slovakia v Republic of Ireland (20:45)

No team have featured more in the play-offs than Ireland, who have become increasingly proficient at this stage, winning the last two of their four ties. They've never lost an away leg in those previous eliminators either so Slovakia, who only have a victory against Azerbaijan from their last five home games, have been warned. Pavel Hapal's side have just one clean sheet in 11 matches while the visitors have mustered a mere 14 goals in 16 games – whoever improves on their respective record may prosper here.

The 20 qualified teams: form guide

Path C
: Norway v Serbia (20:45)

Highlights: Northern Ireland 1-5 Norway
Highlights: Northern Ireland 1-5 Norway

Four defeats from four play-off matches does not give Norway much hope of a first EURO finals appearance since 2000. However, their recent results are arguably better than those of any other side in action, with just three defeats in 22 games, and they arrive here off the back of an Erling Haaland-inspired 5-1 win in Northern Ireland. Serbia have similar form and their own talisman in the form of Aleksandar Mitrović, who has 12 goals in his last nine internationals. Which striker will have the decisive say in Oslo?

Path C: Scotland v Israel (20:45) 

You have to go back to EURO '96 for the last time Scotland were at the finals, with their barren spell including play-offs defeats in the following two campaigns. Their opponents in this edition are certainly familiar, the Scots having been drawn with Israel in both UEFA Nations League campaigns. Those meetings have brought a win for either side in 2018 and a draw in Glasgow in September – expect there to be little to choose between them here.

Path D: Georgia v Belarus (18:00)

Highlights: Georgia 1-1 North Macedonia
Highlights: Georgia 1-1 North Macedonia

These nations have not come close to the finals since independence from the Soviet Union, but history now beckons for both. Georgia have proved a tough nut to crack in recent years and neither Denmark nor Ireland could score in Tbilisi during UEFA EURO 2020 qualifying. By contrast, Belarus have been a streaky outfit – which could work in their favour. They lost eight matches in both 2017 and 2019, yet only suffered one defeat in ten games in 2018 and have been beaten just once so far in 2020.

Path D: North Macedonia v Kosovo (20:45) 

The hosts are on a high after finishing third in a qualifying section for the first time in either EURO or World Cup history, overcoming Slovenia and Israel in Skopje along the way. Kosovo have also been a breath of fresh air in the last two years with their attacking outlook rewarded with an unbeaten inaugural UEFA Nations League campaign and a top-three place in their debut EURO qualifying quest.

EURO 2020: all you need to know

Play-off finals

Thursday 12 November

Path A: Bulgaria/Hungary v Iceland/Romania (20:45) 
Path B: Bosnia and Herzegovina/Northern Ireland v Slovakia/Republic of Ireland (20:45)
Path C: Norway/Serbia v Scotland/Israel (TBC)
Path D: Georgia/Belarus v North Macedonia/Kosovo (18:00)

Are the play-offs new?

Watch goals from every EURO final: 1960–2016
Watch goals from every EURO final: 1960–2016

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

How do the play-offs work?

The 16 UEFA Nations League group winners were guaranteed play-off places before the European Qualifiers. If they advanced via their qualifying groups, their spot went to the next best-ranked team in their league. Where a league did not have four teams to compete (such as League A), remaining slots were allocated to sides from another league, according to the overall UEFA Nations League rankings.

EURO 2020: all the fixtures

Do teams know who they will potentially play in the EURO finals?

Teams in Paths B and C know:

• Path B winners go to Group E alongside Spain, Sweden, Poland
• Path C winners go to Group D alongside England, Croatia, Czech Republic

Paths A and D are more complicated.

If Romania qualify as Path A winners:

• Romania would go to Group C alongside Netherlands, Ukraine, Austria
• Path D winners would go to Group F alongside Portugal, France, Germany

If Bulgaria, Hungary or Iceland qualify as Path A winners:

• Path A winners would go to Group F alongside Portugal, France, Germany
• Path D winners would go to Group C alongside Netherlands, Ukraine, Austria.