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Euro 2016: Will we see a penalty shootout in the group stages?

UEFA's rules for Euro 2016 may see a penalty shootout after the final group stage match

Euro 2016 penalty shootout group stages
Penalty shootouts are not confined to the knockout stages at Euro 2016

International tournaments usually see penalty shootouts in the latter stages of the competition, i.e. the knockout stages. But Euro 2016 could change the norm and teams could find themselves in a position where the final match in the group stage could go to penalties to determine the final positions. 

Normally, the number of teams in a knockout tournament is in the powers of 2. For example, 16 teams or 32 teams in a tournament will see the number of teams halved after every round.

However, Euro 2016 has 24 teams split into six groups (not like the World Cup where there are 32 teams in eight groups). Not every group at Euro will see two teams qualifying for the knockouts and two teams going home. Four lucky teams finishing third in the six groups will have the chance to qualify for the round of 16 provided their record is better than the other teams who finished third. 

Now if two teams finish with the same points, goals scored and goals conceded – penalties will decide which team goes through. And this clause will only be activated when no other teams in the group have a similar record.

“If two teams which have the same number of points, the same number of goals scored and conceded play their last group match against each other and are still equal at the end of that match, the ranking of the two teams in question is determined by kicks from the penalty mark, provided no other teams within the group have the same number of points on completion of all group matches.” – UEFA Euro 2016 Regulations, Article 18.02

A penalty shootout may decide whether a team finishes second or third. Win the shootout and finish second; they go through directly to the Round of 16. Lose the shootout and finish third; their fate hangs in the balance depending on the other teams who finished third. 

When does a penalty shootout come into effect?

For example: let's take Group A – France, Romania, Albania and Switzerland. Assuming France and Switzerland finish first and second beating Albania and Romania with the same scorelines (say 1-0), the latter two teams (now on zero points) will play the final game to decide who finishes third.

If Albania and Romania play out a 1-1 draw, their records are still identical (1 point, 1 goal scored, 3 goals conceded) while the winner of the France and Switzerland finishes first with the loser guaranteed second place. Therefore, Albania and Romania will go into a shootout to determine who finishes third.

If teams from different groups have identical records, there will be no shootout. Fair Play comes into the picture. The points system is given below.

PunishmentPoints
Single Yellow Card1
Two Yellow Cards (Red Card)3
Direct Red Card3
Yellow Card + Direct Red Card4

Even if this cannot separate two third-placed teams from different groups, then ultimately the UEFA national team coefficient will come into play and the higher ranked team will go through. 

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