Uefa have confirmed that England will be amongst the second seeds for next year’s European Championships in Poland and Ukraine, meaning that Fabio Capello’s men will avoid Euro 2008 runners-up Germany – fresh from a perfect qualifying campaign and a scintillating 3-0 win over Holland yesterday evening – 2006 World Cup winners Italy and Russia in the group stages.
The draw for the finals will be made in Kiev at 5pm on December 2nd, and sees Poland and Ukraine joined by reigning World and European champions Spain and Bert van Marwijk’s 2010 World Cup finalists Holland amongst the top seeds, with the two hosts having been allocated to Groups A and D respectively.
Giovanni Trapattoni’s Republic of Ireland – following their 5-1 play-off success against Estonia – are amongst the fourth seeds, alongside Denmark, the Czech Republic and Laurent Blanc’s France, who despite coming under vast media scrutiny in recent times over supposed poor performances, are unbeaten in their last 17 internationals.
Pot three contains Sweden, Euro 2004 winners Greece, and the dangerous duo of Croatia and Portugal.
The ideal scenario for England would see the Three Lions avoid both Spain and Holland – and also the Ukrainians, who beat England during World Cup qualifying in Ukraine – and be paired in Group A with Poland (the FA has already confirmed England’s base for the tournament will be in Krakow), Greece, who appear the least threatening of the third seeds, and the Czech Republic, who have diminished as a force in international circles in recent years.
However, alternatively, the worst case scenario would see England placed in either Group B or C alongside Vicente Del Bosque’s Spain – who despite their 1-0 friendly defeat at Wembley on Saturday, have won their last 14 competitive internationals – a France side who bewitched England at Wembley 12 months ago (Les Bleus running out comfortable 2-1 winners), and Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal.
For Ireland, the best available grouping would likewise pair them with Poland and Greece and also Italy from pot two, the Italians holding no fears for Trapattoni and his players, having recently held the Azzurri to two draws. On the other hand, a group containing Spain, Germany and Portugal would give the Republic virtually no chance of qualifying for the knockout stages.