England and Wales were drawn in the same group for the European Championships in France next summer.
The draw, this evening in Paris, saw two of the home nations pitted together with Slovakia and Russia in Group B. England will take on Wales in Lens on June 16 in what will be their second match of the tournament.
England’s opening game is in Marseille against Russia on June 11. Marseille was the venue for England’s 2-0 win over Colombia in France ’98 when David Beckham scored a great free-kick. England’s last group match will be against Slovakia in St. Etienne on June 20. St. Etienne was another of England’s venues in ’98, where they lost on penalties to Argentina and Michael Owen scored ‘that goal’.
This tournament has been expanded to 24 teams and this has thrown up the romantic occurrence of several first-timers to Europe’s top party. Wales and Northern Ireland will make their bow in June, as will Albania, Slovakia and Iceland.
England were one of the top seeds in the draw, along with France, Spain, Germany, Portugal and Belgium. France were automatically drawn into Group A, although UEFA couldn’t avoid the futility of having to draw their name out anyway, presumably to make sure we hadn’t forgotten them.
They were drawn in with Romania, Albania and Switzerland. France v Romania will be the opening match Euro 2016 at Stade de France on June 10.
England were drawn out next to go into Group B, along with Wales who meet Slovakia first up on day two of the tournament in Bordeaux.
Northern Ireland were drawn into Group C, which was headed up by World Champions, Germany. Ukraine and Poland make up the group. Northern Ireland’s first opponents will be Poland in Nice on June 12. They take on Germany in Paris on June 21, after meeting Ukraine in Lyon on June 16.
Defending champions, Spain, were drawn into Group D and will meet Czech Republic in their opening game. Turkey and Croatia were also drawn into this group.
Group E appears to be the toughest of them all and poor old Republic of Ireland were given the honour of trying to find their way out of this one. Belgium, who top FIFA rankings, Italy and Sweden are to be their opponents. June 13 sees both opening games in this group with the Republic coming up against Sweden in Stade de France. They then take on Belgium in Bordeaux on June 18 finishing with Italy in Lille on June 22.
Group F, in contrast, appears the easiest of groups and Portugal can consider themselves very lucky to be drawn top seed in this one. They’re up against Iceland, Hungary and Austria.
The top two in each group progress to the knock-out stage along with four of the best third-placed teams. These will be determined by points first, goal difference next and then goals scored. The knockout phase takes on a similar format as World Cups do, with a Second Round, consisting of sixteen teams leading to a Quarter-Finals, Semi-Finals before the Final at Stade de France on July 10.
There are many matches to look forward to and I’ll be posting some previews in anticipation of an exciting tournament.
In addition, I will be posting pieces on each of the previous tournaments.
If you want to follow the tournament using an online wallchart then look no further than this website. This guy puts together some wonderful spreadsheets which means all you have to do is enter each result and the document automatically updates. You can try and predict the scores too and see who might meet who in the knock-out rounds.