The Euro 2020 Group Qualifying stages came to a close last night and on the home, nations front there was good news for England fans, as they wrapped up qualification in impressive fashion at the weekend by winning Group A, ahead of runners-up Czechoslovakia. Wales also delighted their fans, as they qualified for back-to-back UEFA Euro Tournaments for the first time in their history, thanks to a comfortable 2-0 win against Hungary at the Cardiff City Stadium.
Scotland and Northern Ireland missed out on automatic qualification, however, all is not lost, as they still have one last chance at qualifying, via the Nations League Play-Offs next March. The Euros 2020 qualification Play-Offs format uses the new Nations League group system, it will take place between the 26th and 31st March 2020, there will be sixteen teams that make up four groups of four teams and the winner of each group wins one of the four remaining qualification berths. The other nations who automatically qualified for Euro 2020 were Ukraine and Portugal from Group B, Germany and Netherlands from Group C, Switzerland and Denmark from Group D, Spain and Sweden from Group F, Poland and Austria from Group G, France and Turkey from Group H, Belgium and Russia from Group I and finally, Italy and Euros debutantes Finland from Group J. The Euro 2020 qualification play-offs draw takes place this Friday and the Euro 2020 main Tournament draw takes place 30th November 2019.
There was also FA Cup second round replay action last night with ten matches, there where was only one upset and League One Gillingham added further pressure on League One Sunderland, winning 1-0 in extra-time. The majority of other League One teams in FA Cup replay action last night also won, like Shrewsbury, who impressed knocking out renowned FA Cup giant killers Bradford City 0-1 at the Utilita Energy Stadium, Bristol Rovers made hard work of seeing off non-league Bromley over two matches, but just scraped through thanks to a 0-1 win at Hayes Lane last night. There won’t be another dream FA Cup run for Sir Alex Ferguson's 1990's babes, well at least for this season anyway, as League One Burton Albion were too strong for Salford City (owned by the famous group of ex Manchester United stars), winning 4-1 at the Pirelli Stadium last night. Doncaster, Peterborough and Rochdale made home advantage count knocking out League Two Wimbledon and Stevenage 2-0 and non-league Wrexham 1-0 last night. League Two high flyers Exeter City and Swindon were too good for Cambridge UTD and Cheltenham Town and finally, non-league Eastleigh’s dream FA Cup run continues, as they swept aside Stourbridge 3-0 last night.
The remaining four FA Cup replays take place tonight and none league Darlington will fancy their chances on home soil against League Two relegation threatened Walsall. Lincoln City did well to hang on for a draw against high flyers Ipswich from League One in the first encounter at Portman Road. The Imps may not get a better opportunity to kick-start their faltering season and bag some much-needed confidence in the process because, they don’t have the distraction of a League One game on Saturday to worry about. However, their opponents Ipswich, do have a big League One home game on Saturday to think about, against fellow promotion challengers Blackpool. I think that Tractor Boys manager Paul Lambert may prioritise league promotion over a good cup run tonight and field a weakened team as a result. If he does, I think it’s worth opposing Ipswich on the exchanges or handicap markets with a 1 goal start. Renowned cup giant killers Newport County are adept at navigating the early round of cup competitions and they wont get a better chance of sustaining this seasons FA Cup run against relegation threatened Grimsby Town at Rodney Parade tonight. Finally, there's the League One replay between leaders Wycombe and struggling Tranmere Rovers at Adams Park. Assuming Wycombe boss Gareth Ainsworth doesn’t rest to many first team players with Saturdays League One fixtures in mind, then they should progress to the third round without any drama.