Which third-ranked teams will qualify? - UPDATE
With the Men’s EHF EURO 2022 qualifiers ending this weekend, it is time to get out the calculators.
All winners and runners-up in the eight groups know for sure that they will travel to Hungary and Slovakia in January next year.
For the teams that finish their group in third, things are less straightforward.
The four best of those third-ranked teams will also qualify for the EHF EURO. But what do teams need to be among those ‘four best’?
With 15 qualifiers left to play on Sunday, 14 of the 20 available spots are occupied: Serbia, France (both from group 1), Germany (group 2), Russia, Czech Republic (group 3), Portugal, Iceland (group 4), Slovenia, Netherlands (group 5), Norway, Belarus (group 6), Denmark, North Macedonia (group 7) and Sweden (group 8) will join co-hosts Hungary and Slovakia as well as 2020 champions Spain and runners-up Croatia at the finals tournament.
So six spots in total are still open, including the four for the best third-ranked teams.
Only results against top-two teams in group count
How does this third-place ranking work? Important is that only the results against the top-two teams from the respective group count. The results against the fourth-ranked team play no role in this calculation.
In this ranking of third-place teams, the four teams with the highest number of points qualify; teams with the same number of points will be ranked based on goal difference.
Ahead of Friday’s matches - Faroe Islands vs Czech Republic in group 3 and Montenegro vs Sweden in group 8 - the situation per group is as follows:
Greece are confirmed as third-ranked team but, with zero points from their duels with Serbia and France, can potentially finish among the four best third-ranked teams only if they sensationally snatch a point from France in Creteil on Sunday.
Austria and Bosnia and Herzegovina, each on four points, play a direct duel on Sunday for second place. Bosnia won the reverse fixture 27:21 and will qualify as the second-ranked team if they get at least a draw. If Bosnia lose, they will have two points for the ranking of third-place teams. If Austria lose, they will hardly be able to finish among the four best third-ranked teams. There is still a tiny chance that a team can qualify even with zero points in the third teams ranking but Austria's staggering goal difference of -25 after two defeats by Germans and one by Bosnia and Herzegovina does not speak in their favour at all.
Czech Republic will claim one of the tickets for the best third-ranked teams, if they fail to finish second. This can happen only if they lose to Ukraine by more than one goal. Czechs, who can already look forward to playing the EURO 2022 preliminary round in Bratislava, would have three points in the ranking of third teams and there is no chance that more than three teams could overtake them.
For Ukraine finishing third there are three scenarios depending on the final score of the match in Brno, as they can have three (in case of a one-goal victory), two (in case of a draw) or just one point (in case of a defeat) in the ranking.
Both Lithuania and Israel can finish third in this group and in case of the same points, Israel will prevail thanks to better direct encounters. Lithuania's chances look much brighter after beating Iceland on Thursday and they can further boost their chances of qualifying if they get a point – or two – from already qualified Portugal. But if they lose against Portugal, they remain on two points with an unfavourable goal difference (currently -22).
Israel must win at Iceland and hope for Lithuania's defeat at Portugal to finish third in the group, but their current goal difference is even worse than Lithuania's (-35).
Slovenia and Netherlands enter their Sunday's matches with a EURO ticket in a pocket, but Poland can still join them. If they beat Netherlands Poles can go to the second or even the first spot. If they do not win, they finish third with either three or two points and a very promising goal difference.
Chances of both Italy and Latvia are dim ahead of their trips to the group favourites Norway and Belarus respectively. If they finish on the same points, Italy will take the third place in the group but for both a major surprise on Sunday is almost mandatory in order to succeed in this race.
Switzerland are guaranteed to finish third but must win as big as possible at already-qualified North Macedonia and hope for all their rivals on two points in the third-place teams standings to lose their respective matches. Currently Switzerland are on zero points with a goal difference of -8.
Following their defeat against Sweden, Montenegro remain one point ahead of Romania and Kosovo. In the group's crunch game between Montenegro and Romania on Sunday the winner secures the place at the EURO, while the loser is in troubles - if it is Romania, they will drop to the fourth place and if it is Montenegro there are in a big danger of missing out on the EURO too.
Kosovo need Romania to drop both points in Montenegro, while any breath-taking point for Kosovo from Sweden would increase their chance for a historic success.