Euro 2024: Why England play Slovakia not Netherlands in RO16

England are through to the knockout stages at Euro 2024, but as the winners of Group C, they didn’t know their round-of-16 opponents until Group F completed on Wednesday.

The top teams in Groups B, C, E and F will take on one of the four teams that have gone through as best third-placed finishers.

UEFA created a grid before the tournament began that set out where each third-placed team would go depending on which four groups provided the qualifiers.

It didn’t matter if a country was the best third-placed team or the fourth best — allocation is purely based upon the grid.

Going into the final day of group games, England could have faced any team from Group E, or Netherlands. And they ended up with Slovakia, third in Group E.

As the final group kicked off, Group A side Hungary were holding onto the last place for a team in third. The grid meant England would therefore face the Dutch — then Georgia, ranked 74th in the FIFA World Ranking and at a major tournament for the first time, shocked much-fancied Portugal to leapfrog Hungary and go through in third.

Group C (Slovenia), Group D (Netherlands) and Group E (Slovakia) and Group F (Georgia) provided teams, while Group A (Hungary) and Group B (Croatia) saw their third-placed teams eliminated. The left us with CDEF — referring to the letters of the groups that provide the qualifiers.

As set out by the grid, CDEF gave us the following ties for third-placed teams:

CDEF
England vs. Slovakia
Spain vs. Georgia
Portugal vs. Slovenia
Romania vs. Netherlands

Had Georgia not beaten Portugal, the group allocation would have been ACDE.

ACDE
England vs. Netherlands
Spain vs. Slovakia
Portugal vs. Hungary
Romania vs. Slovenia

Going into the final day of group games, England could have faced any team from Group E, or Netherlands. And they ended up with the Dutch.

Group A (Hungary), Group C (Slovenia), Group D (Netherlands) and Group E (Slovakia) provided teams, while Group B (Croatia) and Group F () saw their third-placed teams eliminated. The left us with ACDE — referring to the letters of the groups that provide the qualifiers.

As set out by the grid, ACDE gave us the following ties for third-placed teams: