Belfast Telegraph

What results do Northern Ireland need to snatch the final seeded World Cup play-off spot?

A simplified look at the race for seeding as it stands

By Gareth Hanna

Northern Ireland's wait for their World Cup play-off place is over after Scotland's slip in Slovenia confirmed NI's spot.

We also know that Denmark and Italy will take part in the play-offs. With five more to be confirmed, how does it leave Northern Ireland's seeding chances? Here are our workings using FIFA's World Rankings prognosis calculator (all conclusions therefore subject to the accuracy of that calculator):

How likely is it that Northern Ireland will be seeded in the play-offs?

The seedings will go on World Ranking places based on the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking to be published on 16 October. So Northern Ireland need to, obviously, be above four other play-off teams in the list.

Northern Ireland, if early indications are correct, will finish on 889 world ranking points. It's unlikely that will be enough for a seeded spot. Unlikely, but still possible. Here's why:

Of the play-off teams, Italy are above NI in the rankings and with Denmark set to go to 1001 points, calculations suggest they will move above NI as well.  Portugal or Switzerland from Group B are both well above NI in the rankings too.

That takes up three of the four seeded spots, meaning there is one still up for grabs.

If Wales can get the result they need against the Republic of Ireland, they will take the final seeded place. Also in with a shout are Sweden from Group A and Group I's runner-up, should it be Ukraine or Croatia.

In plain terms, what results do Northern Ireland need to be seeded?

Northern Ireland need ALL of the following to happen in order to be seeded.

1. Republic of Ireland (or Serbia) to make the play-offs ahead of Wales in Group D. That requires an Irish win tonight. Ireland win.

2. Group I's runner-up to be the team to miss out on the play-offs. This requires a draw between Ukraine and Croatia tonight. Ukraine v Croatia draw.

3. If those two happen, the final seeding spot will be decided on Tuesday evening when Sweden travel to face the Netherlands. Only a Netherlands win (by less than seven goals) will be the result Northern Ireland need. Sweden defeat.

Show me your working out.

1. If Wales make the play-offs, they will comfortably stay ahead of Northern Ireland in the World Rankings. Republic of Ireland and Serbia are both below NI in the rankings.

2. If either Ukraine or Croatia make it to the play-offs, they will have enough world ranking points to ensure they are ahead of NI. A Croatia win takes them to 1013 points while a Ukraine win would see them go to 987 points. If they draw tonight while RoI (or Wales) win, Group I will miss out on a play-off.

3. Sweden will make the play-offs ahead of the Netherlands as long as they avoid a seven-goal thrashing. Should they get a draw tonight, they will go to 914 world ranking points, ahead of NI. But if the Netherlands get their unlikely landslide win and make the play-offs, they would be ranked ahead of NI as well. So only a narrow(ish) Sweden defeat will do for NI.

Group by group

Group A: Sweden or Netherlands or France (unlikely). Most Likely: UNCLEAR

Group B: Portugal or Switzerland. Most Likely: SEEDED

Group C: Northern Ireland. Most Likely: UNCLEAR

Group D: Republic of Ireland or Serbia or Wales. Most Likely: UNCLEAR

Group E: Denmark. They are six places lower than Northern Ireland at present but look set to go ahead of NI. Most Likely: SEEDED

Group F: Slovakia. Currently above NI in the rankings but will fall below NI in the next update. Most Likely: UNSEEDED

Group G: Italy. Most Likely: SEEDED

Group H: Greece or Bosnia and Herzegovinia. Most Likely: UNSEEDED

Group I: Croatia or Ukraine. Most Likely: UNCLEAR

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