Late yesterday the draw for the groups of 2016 was made in Paris, if you’ve not yet seen the draw, you can check out the groups here http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/european-championship/euro-2016/schedule/group-stage.
The Home Nations
Who’d have guessed it? England pitted against Wales in the group stage. Potential revenge on the cards for England following their disappointing campaign from the rugby World Cup? We’ll have to see, but this is definitely going to be one the most anticipated fixtures of the early stages. The group (group B) itself is no easy task to progress from, opponents in the form of Slovakia and Russia face the English and Welsh. Slovakia, second only to Euro 2012 champions Spain in the group stages, will prove a tricky test and group G runners up Russia will take no prisoners.
Northern Ireland are welcomed into group C with the likes of powerhouses Germany and Poland and 29th ranked in the world, Ukraine. First impressions suggest that Northern Ireland will require a miracle to even claim a point at the European Championships next summer. However, looking at the qualification track record of these formidable opponents, the Northern Irish can be somewhat hopeful. Ukraine finished third place in their group and only just managed to get through their qualifier against Slovenia. One of the most interesting developments of the qualifying stages was group D and Northern Ireland will take great faith in the scrapes Scotland and Republic of Ireland took from the big guns. So don’t fear Northern Ireland, there is hope!
Republic of Ireland will have an extremely tough task in group E, which is being deemed as the group of death. Belgium, Italy and Sweden will line up against Ireland in what seems like an impossible task. Belgium hot favourites to win and ranked number 1 in FIFA world rankings and Italy group H winners are the early favourites to progress whilst Sweden spearheaded by Zlatan Ibrahimovic in what could be his last tournament for his country will go all guns blazing against Ireland. Martin O’Neill and his men will praying for the luck of the Irish to stop the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard, Graziano Pellè and the man himself, Zlatan.
Home nation France look to have the easiest pick of the groups facing the likes of Romania, Albania and Switzerland and should have no worries progressing. Portugal and Spain also should have no troubles in groups D and F respectively.
Overall, it’s safe to say the draw for Euro 2016 has been fairly kind to England and Wales, and a lot less kind for Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland. Time will tell how the home nations do next summer but there is no doubt that all eyes from the UK will be watching, except maybe Scotland…