Euro tiebreakers could get complicated

Ireland's John O'Shea leaves the pitch after losing their match against Spain on June 14, 2012,...

Ireland's John O'Shea leaves the pitch after losing their match against Spain on June 14, 2012, eliminating them from Euro 2012. (Juan Medina/Reuters)

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:57 AM ET

WARSAW - Get out the calculators, slide rules and a hat because that's what it may take to decide which soccer teams make it to the next round of Euro 2012.

A hat? Yes, we'll get to that.

The first tiebreaker for two teams tied will be head-to-head competition. If the teams tied their group game, then it goes to superior goal difference between the teams that are tied.

That's straight forward enough when only two teams are tied. But this Euro has so many groups that are still in play that at the most, two teams will be eliminated after the first two games of their group. The Republic of Ireland has been eliminated and with a loss Friday night, Sweden would be gone as well.

When three teams or more are tied with the chance to qualify that things get complicated.

Group C with Italy, Croatia, Spain and Ireland are in that situation. If Spain and Croatia tie their final game and Italy beats Ireland, all three teams will have five points. All three teams would have played to draws against each other.

In Group B with Germany, Portugal, Denmark and the Netherlands, the right combination of wins and losses would leave three teams tied for the second qualifying spot with three points or three teams tied for first in the group with six points.

Then it would go to the goal difference in the group but the only games that would count are games the teams played against each other.

Spain's 4-0 hammering of Ireland doesn't count because Ireland has been eliminated.

If the tie remains unbroken, then UEFA looks at goals scored in games between the teams. Since Italy, Croatia and Spain would have all tied each other at 1-1, those totals are identical.

The next tiebreaking procedure brings into play Spain's big win against Ireland. That tiebreaker counts goal differential in all the games played in the group including the games against Ireland.

Should by some miracle those totals remain the same then it falls to most goals scored in all matches in the group.

No one wants to go to the final three tiebreakers.

The first would advance according to their position in the UEFA national team coefficient ranking system.

Then a tie is broken by fair play conduct of the teams (number of red cards and yellow cards.)

The final tiebreaker would be a drawing of lots.

That's where the hat comes in. You need something to put the lots in.

That tiebreaker has been used once but it wasn't a hat, it was the flip of a coin. Italy and Russia were tied after their semifinal and extra time. There were no kicks from the penalty spot then.

It fell to the capricious whim of a spinning coin.

Italy won the toss and went on to win the 1968 Euro championship against Yugoslavia.

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