Euro 2020: England lead home nations' charge after qualifiers

England's Ross Barkley
Ross Barkley celebrates one of his two goals in Sofia

In theory all four home nations could be playing at Euro 2020 next summer but it's England who have by far the best chance, says Max Liu.

"The Republic of Ireland go into tonight's match against Switzerland on top of Group D on goal difference. They've enjoyed an excellent campaign under Mick McCarthy victory in Geneva would seal their qualification."

There were more important things to talk about after England's trip to Bulgaria but, in terms of the team's prospects, the 6-0 win did a lot to reassure fans that Gareth Southgate's men are serious contenders at next summer's Euro 2020.

The tournament, which will be played in 12 cities across the continent and see the semi-finals and final played at Wembley, is regarded as England's best chance of winning a major honour for many years. They are 6.25/1 behind favourites France 5.24/1 to go all the way.

Lots of positives in England's display

Southgate had implied that there wasn't enough peril in England's qualifying campaign, so comfortable had their victories up until this round been. Losing to Czech Republic 2-1 in Prague on Friday focused England mind's, though, and Southgate was forced to make five changes for the trip to Sofia on Monday.

England were excellent in attack, against an admittedly poor Bulgarian defence, and it was good to see Marcus Rashford, Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane all on the scoresheet. Ross Barkley got into good positions for his brace too. At the back, there was a commanding debut from Tyrone Mings even as the Aston Villa defender was subject to racist abuse from the home crowd.

If the good ship England hit stormy waters on Friday night it once again sails on after Monday's display and the team are a shoo-in to top Group A.

Play-offs offer Scotland a lifeline

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Like their neighbours, Scotland lost one qualifier then won the next in emphatic style. They were beaten 4-0 by Russia then walloped San Marino 6-0. Steve Clarke's men lie fourth in Group I and next up play away to the team directly above them, Cyprus. After that it's Kazakhstan at home. The matches take place 16 and 19 November respectively.

But all is not lost. Thanks to finishing top of their Nations League group last November, Scotland already have the Euro 2020 qualifying play-offs to look forward to. They could host Bulgaria, Israel or Romania in the semi-final.

Wales' hopes are still alive

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Wales can still qualify for the tournament after 1-1 draws away to Slovakia and at home to Croatia. Gareth Bale got the equaliser against the World Cup finalists on Sunday but there are signs that, under Ryan Giggs, the Welsh are more than a one man team and are starting to coalesce into an outfit that's difficult to beat.

They're fourth in Group E, though, and need Slovakia to drop points. Giggs' men need to beat Azerbaijan away and Hungary at home next month and hope that Croatia beat Slovakia in November. In all of those results went to plan, Wales would finish second.

Dutch defeat is blow to NI but ROI are on the brink

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Northern Ireland's hopes of qualifying for a consecutive Euros took a dent when they lost their only qualifier this month 3-1 to Holland.

The result means Michael O'Neill's side are third in Group C, behind both the Dutch and Germany on goal difference, after the defeat to Ronald Koeman's men. It's going to be tough for Northern Ireland, with their next and final match an away trip to Germany, but there's every chance they will make the play-offs. If they pull of an unlikely win in that match they'd tie with the Germans on points but almost certainly lose out on goal difference.

The Republic of Ireland, meanwhile, go into tonight's match against Switzerland on top of Group D on goal difference. They've enjoyed an excellent campaign under Mick McCarthy, as Dan McDonnell explains in his match preview, victory in Geneva would seal their qualification.

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