December 2 – Almost every World Cup or European Championship has a proverbial “group of death,” and Saturday’s draw for next summer’s Euro 2020 threw up one of the most mouth-watering of recent years.
All eyes will be on Group F, where reigning European champions Portugal were drawn against World Cup winners France and much-feared Germany.
It means the likes of Portuguese captain Cristiano Ronaldo will face French superstar Kylian Mbappe in the early stages of the competition.
England were drawn with their 2018 World Cup semi-final conquerors Croatia while other favourites were given a relatively easy ride in the pan-European competition which for the first and only time is being spread across 12 cities to mark its 60th anniversary.
Germany, three-time winners, will have a psychological advantage in that all three of their games will be played in Munich but it is highly likely all three Group F big-hitters – who will be joined by an as yet undecided playoff winner — will advance to the knockout stage since four of the six third-placed group teams qualify for the round of 16.
England and Croatia will be joined in Group D by the Czech Republic and the winners of playoff C –Scotland, Norway, Serbia or Israel – with group games to be played in London, host for the semi-finals and final , and Glasgow.
Italy, who won all 10 qualifying games after failing to make the last World Cup, will open the tournament against Turkey in Rome on June 12.
Euro 2008 and 2012 champions Spain, who will jointly host Group E in Bilbao with Dublin, play Sweden, Poland and playoff winner B – either Bosnia, Slovakia, Ireland or Northern Ireland.
In a break with tradition, many of the group positions were decided before the draw took place due to the unique nature of the tournament .
To confuse matters further, there are 16 teams still looking to book their place in the finals, separated into different playoff paths. That means the groups and 24 finalists cannot be confirmed until qualifying is over on March 31.
“The rules are clear, they were accepted by everybody,” argued UEFA deputy general secretary Giorgio Marchetti. “Portugal are in pot three because they didn’t win their group, and the winner of their group was Ukraine. And Ukraine, thanks to their results, are in pot one, and everybody accepts it because once again we have clear rules.”
Full Euro 2020 draw
Group A: Turkey, Italy, Wales, Switzerland
Group B: Denmark, Finland, Belgium, Russia
Group C: Holland, Ukraine, Austria, playoff winner D
Group D: England, Croatia, Czech Republic, playoff winner C
Group E: Spain, Sweden, Poland, playoff winner B
Group F: Portugal, France, Germany, playoff winner A
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