Gavin HamiltonI’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been asked on twitter to explain the final-round group permutations.

For the record, the UEFA website explains things pretty clearly.

There’s also a pdf of the Euro 2012 tournament regulations. It can be downloaded from the UEFA website.

If two or more teams are equal on points on completion of the group matches, the following criteria are applied to determine the rankings:

a) Higher number of points obtained in the matches played between the teams in question;

b) Superior goal difference resulting from the matches played between the teams in question (if more than two teams finish equal on points);

c) Higher number of goals scored in the matches played between the teams in question (if more than two teams finish equal on points);

d) If, after having applied criteria a) to c), two teams still have an equal ranking, criteria a) to c) are reapplied exclusively to the matches between the two teams in question to determine the final rankings of the two teams. If this procedure does not lead to a decision, criteria e) to i) apply in the order given;

e) superior goal difference in all group matches;

f) higher number of goals scored in all group matches;

g) position in the UEFA national team coefficient ranking system (see annex I, paragraph 1.2.2);

h) fair play conduct of the teams (final tournament);

i) drawing of lots

There’s been some confusion because UEFA’s congress in Istanbul last month agreed an amendment that inserted criteria d) after a) to c). Fortunately, Spain’s late goal tonight meant that such a scenario did not come to pass.


After Spain’s late winner against Croatia in Gdansk, the initial body of opinion seems to be that England would be better off winning the group, because they would then avoid a quarter-final against Spain in Donetsk on Saturday.

Of course, that line of thinking assumes England will beat Ukraine, who still have genuine chance of qualifying for the last eight themselves. It also assumes that England can finish higher than France, who have already beaten Ukraine 2-0 and are therefore likely to have the better head-to-head record.

However, the French, who are based at Shakhtar Donetsk’s luxurious training centre, may actually prefer to finish second in the group and stay in Donetsk, rather than face Italy in Kiev on Sunday.

Then there is the small matter of whether Spain would be more difficult quarter-final opponents than Italy. Spain may have a magnificent midfield but they still look a little lightweight in defence, especially without the warrior-like influence of the injured Carles Puyol.

Italy also have weaknesses at the back – witness the space that Croatia’s Mario Mandzukic was allowed to score his side’s equaliser in the 1-1 draw in their second game. But Italy  have plenty of striking options, as demonstrated by substitute Mario Balotelli’s wonderful volleyed goal late in the game against Ireland in Poznan.


National team coaches tend to depart major tournaments in acrimonious circumstances, especially those whose teams fail to negotiate their way through the group stages.

Already we have seen calls for Franciscek Smuda to depart after Poland’s failure to reach the quarter-finals. Dick Advocaat, already lined up to join PSV Eindhoven, left Russia amid arguments with fans at the team’s hotel. And Bert Van Marwijk has faced heavy criticism in the Dutch media, though he insists he will see out the contract that he recently extended until 2016.

An exception is Croatia’s Slaven Bilic.

Though he had his disagreements with the Croatian media, during the qualifying campaign for Euro 2016, he conducted himself with great dignity despite his side’s exit.

His last comment in a live post-match TV interview was: “Thank you for putting up with me.” No fuss, no tantrums, just a neat line in self-deprecation.

Bilic now takes up a new position with Lokomotiv Moscow, a deal that was agreed before the tournament. He will be well-paid in Russia, but how long before we see him at a major club in western Europe?

By Gavin Hamilton