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Talking points ahead of this week’s Euro 2020 play-off semi-finals

Stephen Kenny, Erling Haaland and Steve Clarke

Qualification for Euro 2020 will resume this week with the hopes of some countries set to end after Thursday’s play-off matches.

The Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland are all involved and will aim to take another step towards joining England and Wales at next summer’s delayed tournament.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at the key issues surrounding the four play-off semi-finals due to be played this week.

A repeat of 1993?

The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland are in action on Thursday and, if they win in Slovakia and Bosnia-Herzegovina respectively, it will set up a winner-takes-all clash at Windsor Park in November. If that is the case, it will bring back memories of a similar game 27 years ago when Jack Charlton guided his Republic side to a 1-1 draw which saw them qualify for the 1994 World Cup. With new managers in charge of both, there is plenty at stake.

Scotland need to hold their nerve

Scotland and Israel faced off at Hampden Park last month and it finished 1-1 in the Nations League group tie

Scotland and Israel faced off at Hampden Park last month and it finished 1-1 in the Nations League group tie (Andrew Milligan/PA)

It has been a torrid couple of decades for Scotland and they could only watch on with envy when all of the home nations took part in Euro 2016. Steve Clarke’s team have the chance to make up for it, and in order to do so must first negotiate a play-off semi-final against Israel at Hampden Park. These sides only met last month in the Nations League, but a 1-1 draw will not do this time. Ryan Fraser is back in the fold and Scotland will be aiming to build on a five-match unbeaten run.

Can Erling fire the Vikings to glory?

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If Scotland can beat Israel, they could meet Norway – and Erling Haaland – next month to decide who qualifies for Euro 2020. The Borussia Dortmund striker is one of the hottest properties in world football and has the hopes of a nation on his shoulders despite only making his debut last year. Norway have not made it to a major tournament since Euro 2000 and success over Serbia on Thursday would take them one step closer.

Iceland aim to continue golden era

It has been a remarkable few years for Iceland. After they knocked England out of Euro 2016, they followed it up with a first ever World Cup appearance in Russia two years ago. Now under the management of Erik Hamren, he will aim to make it three consecutive showings on the world stage, but has to overcome Romania this week and then the winner of Bulgaria and Hungary in November.

Door opened for minnows

Kosovo have made a big impact since they were accepted in UEFA in 2016

Kosovo have made a big impact since they were accepted in UEFA in 2016 (Steven Paston/PA)

Iceland’s surprise victory over England was a case of David versus Goliath and more shocks could be on the cards next summer with a minnow set to qualify for a major tournament for the first time. Georgia and Belarus do battle on Thursday and will face the winner of North Macedonia and Kosovo, who meet on the same night. The four are all vying for history and highlight the opportunities the Nations League set-up can produce.