As the qualifying campaigns for Euro 2008 come to an end, the media like to keep us updated with the Home Nations' chances of reaching the tournament. Apart from the endless permutations of the final games, a select set of phrases are usually sufficient to leave the fans in no doubt. As always on The Angle..., they tend to fall into a convenient scientific model.
Fig 1.0 - Graph displaying the rather unsurprising correlation between qualification hopes and international managers' futures.
There are no easy games in international football, of course, so any slip-ups can result in a team missing out on a major tournament ("for the first time since....", etc). According to football media, there are only two places a footballer is allowed to be during the summer of a World Cup or European Championships year - either at the tournament, or on a beach somewhere.
All but out Needing your closest qualification rivals to lose 4-0 to San Marino while you must come from 1-0 down at half-time in Ukraine means your country is all but out. Technically correct, admittedly, but why beat about the bush? You're out.
Also often used for relegation-threatened sides, the mathematical chance heralds the final nail being fetched for the qualification coffin.
Need a miracle
Miracles can happen, of course - that's football - but needing three goals in the last 10 minutes is a bridge too far.
Hang by a thread
Wales' qualification hopes seem to constantly hang by a thread, even before the groups are drawn. Very similar to the mid-match scenario of being in last-chance saloon, hanging by a thread merely prolongs the agony.
In/Out of their hands
Whether a team's hopes are in or out of their hands is vital. If it is still in their hands, they "know what we have to do." If they depend on results elsewhere, they "have just got to go out there and do our job".
Need a favour
Much, much more likely than a miracle, a favour is required when qualification hopes are out of your hands. Pre-match, the team in question is likely to ignore any talk of doing another team a favour.
Hang in the balance
If a team's qualification hopes hang in the balance, all sorts of permutations can affect them. At this point, managers will look to important international double-headers to make or break their qualification campaign.
All but qualified
Teams that have all but qualified usually just need a draw in their final game, at home to the group's minnows, to rubberstamp their entry. There may be a mathematical possibility of them failing, but that's all it is.
Booked their ticket
Also known as sealing their passage, teams can book their ticket to the host nation(s) by securing qualification, especially with ease or by cruising through.
The Angle... suggest that Steve McClaren's qualification hopes currently hang by a thread, putting his Axe Probability figure at around 78%.