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Lineklaus

Euro 2020

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Euro 2020 will be a tournament unlike any other. Hosted across 12 cities stretching from Dublin to Baku, it will feature 24 teams who have escaped the labyrinthine qualification process. Although qualifiers officially kicked off in March, the Nations League, which began 18 months ago, has also played a part.

The number of hosts, a seeding system that leans heavily on qualifying results, and political tensions across the continent have made this draw unique. For some countries, including England, there is plenty at stake – but one group is all but decided already. Here’s what you need to know.

The basics
The draw will take place at Bucharest’s Romexpo Centre at 6pm local time (5pm GMT) on Saturday - it's airing live on BBC Two. There will be six groups of four. Twenty teams have secured their place; four more will qualify via the play-offs (more on that later).

The pots
The teams are seeded based on their qualifying record, meaning that Wales and debutants Finland are in Pot Four with the as-yet-unknown play-off winners. World champions France are in Pot Two; Euro 2016 and Nations League winners Portugal are in Pot Three.

Pot One: Belgium, Italy, England, Germany, Spain, Ukraine.
Pot Two: France, Poland, Switzerland, Croatia, Netherlands, Russia.
Pot Three: Portugal, Turkey, Denmark, Austria, Sweden, Czech Republic.
Pot Four: Wales and Finland, plus the four play-off winners.

What happens to the hosts?
Each group has been assigned two host cities. Seven of the 12 venues are in countries that have already qualified. Those teams are protected, to ensure they will play group games at home – which means several places in the draw are set:

Group A (Rome, Baku): Italy
Group B (St Petersburg, Copenhagen): Russia and Denmark
Group C (Amsterdam, Bucharest): Netherlands
Group D (London, Glasgow): England
Group E (Bilbao, Dublin): Spain
Group F (Munich, Budapest): Germany

The Group B problem
Only two of the top six seeds are not hosting matches: Belgium and Ukraine. They can be drawn only into Groups B or C, where teams from lower pots are hosting games. But because of political tension, Andriy Shevchenko’s team have to be kept away from Russia.

That means they go into Group C with the Netherlands, and Belgium join Russia and Denmark in Group B. That’s right – three of the group’s teams are already decided. What’s more, because other groups have to be kept open for hosts in the play-offs, Group B must include either Finland or Wales – with the other joining Italy in Group A.

Belgium’s Kevin De Bruyne, for one, is not happy. “It’s a shame. For me, this feels like a fake competition. Football has become more and more a business.” He is right to feel aggrieved; Belgium had the best overall qualifying record, but face tricky trips to St Petersburg and Copenhagen.

Denmark will host three games in Group B, with Russia travelling to Copenhagen. That’s because they were picked in a draw, despite Russia’s better qualifying record placing them in a higher pot.

How might the play-offs affect things?
Scotland, the Republic of Ireland, Hungary and Romania could qualify via the play-offs. The draw will make sure that if they do, they’ll play at home. That means Scotland would be in Group D with England, and Ireland in Group E with Spain.

If Romania make it through Path A, they will go into Group C as co-hosts; if not, then the Path D winner goes into that group. That’s significant because Path D includes the four weakest teams on paper: Georgia, Belarus, Kosovo and North Macedonia.

Remind me how the play-offs work again?
The play-offs feature 16 teams, divided into four “paths”, with last Friday’s draw allocating the home sides for the single-leg semi-finals and final:

Path A: Bulgaria v Hungary*, Iceland v Romania*
Path B: Bosnia v Northern Ireland, Slovakia v Republic of Ireland*
Path C: Norway v Serbia, Scotland* v Israel
Path D: Georgia v Belarus, N Macedonia v Kosovo
*Potential host nation
Winners of first semi-final at home in the final

The paths are based on finishing positions in the Nations League, but an uneven draw has thrown up some unfair advantages. Bulgaria, who failed to win their Nations League group and won one of their eight qualifiers, are two home wins from qualification.

What does this all mean for England?
Gareth Southgate’s side will play all three group games at Wembley, and will face the winner of Path C (Norway, Serbia, Scotland or Israel). The other two teams will come from Pots Two and Three, and some are certainly tougher than others. The worst outcome would be France and Portugal, while Switzerland and the Czech Republic would look less daunting on paper.

If England top Group D, their first knockout match would be in Dublin, followed by a potential quarter-final against Spain in Rome. Should they come second, it’s a trip to Copenhagen, and then a potential quarter-final against Germany in St Petersburg. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

What is the toughest draw?
All the seeds will want to avoid France and/or Portugal. Iceland look the most dangerous side in the play-offs, and would go into Group F if they qualify – so a group of Germany, France, Portugal and Iceland is possible. At the other end of the scale, the Netherlands could face Ukraine, Austria and Georgia at home.

Who could have furthest to travel?
Wales have a 50-50 chance of being in Group A, playing one match against Italy in Rome (1,300 miles from Cardiff) and the other two in Baku. It’s 3,000 miles to the Azerbaijani capital, or an 11-hour, two-stop flight. The only one-stop option is a 13,800-mile round trip, with a layover in Doha. If Ryan Giggs’ side get through as one of the best third-placed teams, their path to the semi-finals could go via Bucharest and St Petersburg.

Uefa came in for criticism from environmental groups for hosting the Europa League final (between two London teams) in Baku. The governing body has pledged to offset the carbon footprint of every supporter; quite how it will work this out is another matter.

Dates for your diary
26th March – Play-off semi-finals
31st March – Play-off finals; draw complete

12th June – Opening game in Rome
14th June – England’s first game at Wembley

27th June – Knockout stage begins
7th & 8th July – Wembley semi-finals
12th July – The final

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Sounds just as convoluted as the Nations League. KDB is right about it in my opinion.

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I like the idea of having multiple host nations as a one-off, but it's made the draw a lot less exciting. The 24-team group stage doesn't work well either, just as it didn't when it was used in the World Cup. When the World Cup expands to 48 teams, at least the permutations of who makes it to the knockout stages will be clear. With the Euros, you have to deal with all the best third-placed team codswallop. When you're possibly having to wait days to know if you've made it through or not, it can make the moment-to-moment drama less potent.

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14 hours ago, Bobfoc said:

I like the idea of having multiple host nations as a one-off, but it's made the draw a lot less exciting. The 24-team group stage doesn't work well either, just as it didn't when it was used in the World Cup. When the World Cup expands to 48 teams, at least the permutations of who makes it to the knockout stages will be clear. With the Euros, you have to deal with all the best third-placed team codswallop. When you're possibly having to wait days to know if you've made it through or not, it can make the moment-to-moment drama less potent.

The World Cup is going to 3 team groups though and progressing 32/48 teams to the next round, which is infinitely worse. The group matches are going to be less than meaningless. I mean the Euros format is terrible too, but we're never getting a proper World Cup again. The December 2022 Slavery Cup is the last one of the proper format and that's already tainted and ruined.

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I wouldn't say it's infinitely worse than the Euros. It's worse than how the World Cup is now, but it'll at least be clear who goes through.

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1 hour ago, Bobfoc said:

I wouldn't say it's infinitely worse than the Euros. It's worse than how the World Cup is now, but it'll at least be clear who goes through.

You have 3 teams in each group with 2 going through, it's clear who goes through because basically everyone goes through! Plus there's no final round of fixtures taking place simultaneously. The group stages will be a combo of dead rubbers and UEFA/CONEMBOL teams beating the piss out of CONCACAF teams. They now have have 6 places now because money.

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Is it just me who wants England to draw one of the better sides in the groups? Maybe not both France and Portugal, but getting an "easy" group doesn't test us enough before knockouts and with having the group games at Wembley, it's a good chance to test ourselves against another so-called favourite.

Poland, Portugal and Scotland, say, would be an interesting group.

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1 hour ago, TCO said:

You have 3 teams in each group with 2 going through, it's clear who goes through because basically everyone goes through! Plus there's no final round of fixtures taking place simultaneously. The group stages will be a combo of dead rubbers and UEFA/CONEMBOL teams beating the piss out of CONCACAF teams. They now have have 6 places now because money.

Didn't they ditch the 3 team group idea, or am I imagining that?

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Group A - Italy, Switzerland, Turkey, Wales
Group B - Belgium, Russia, Denmark, Finland
Group C - Ukraine, Holland, Austria, Georgia/Belarus/North Macedonia/Kosovo
Group D - England, Croatia, Czech Republic, Scotland/Israel/Norway/Serbia
Group E - Spain, Poland, Sweden, Bosnia and Herzegovina/Northern Ireland/Slovakia/Republic of Ireland
Group F - France, Germany, Portugal, Iceland/Romania/Bulgaria/Hungary (But if Romania win their play-off path then they will be into Group C, anyway, and they’ll have to change it all)

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17 minutes ago, Baddar said:

Didn't they ditch the 3 team group idea, or am I imagining that?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2026_FIFA_World_Cup#Format

Says it's 16 groups of 3 here still, don't remember an alternative being floated. 32 teams is as perfect a format as you can get as well as being competitive.

 

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Germany, France, Portugal :lol:

It's quite ridiculous that they're making these groups but might have to change them after the playoff results.

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2 minutes ago, Gorka said:

Group A won't be easy by any means but I think it's doable. 

Enjoy Baku!

  • Haha 2

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Why are they having to move Romania if they win? Shouldn't they have put them straight into the C group? Really confusing.

This whole format has been a total mess, from the Nations League qualifying through to the seeding and beyond.

Anyway, England and Wales both got decent groups.

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3 hours ago, TCO said:

You have 3 teams in each group with 2 going through, it's clear who goes through because basically everyone goes through! Plus there's no final round of fixtures taking place simultaneously. The group stages will be a combo of dead rubbers and UEFA/CONEMBOL teams beating the piss out of CONCACAF teams. They now have have 6 places now because money.

I still prefer it to the Euros. Actually, though, if it had to change from 16, I'd rather the Euros had expanded to 32 teams than 24. It would make qualification largely pointless, but that ship's sailed now anyway.

I suppose my point is that international tournaments with a number of teams that isn't 2 to the power of another whole number bother me.

EDIT: On another subject, England are joint favourites with France? I'm assuming that's just English bookmakers.

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A 3rd team potentially getting through makes Group F slightly less appealing. But depending who the 4th team winds up being they may shave 2 points off of someone's total and wind up knocking them out entirely. Though, still, much less intriguing than if it was certain only 2 sides were advancing.

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I think England would be better off not winning their group. They'd have to play the runners-up of Group F.

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fuck me,  we (denmark) arent drawn with Portugal? For a long time we always seemed to get in Portugals group in qualifiers (and in the euros in Poland and Ukraine)
Oh. And we have a friendly, over in London on March 31st

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The 24 team Euros last time was awful. Far too many meaningless games. 36 group stage games just to eliminate a third of the teams is ridiculous.

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Tournaments should be forced to have the number of teams that was the number of bits on a 90s console. I'm aware there's a technical IT reason for that but I forget why, but it plainly applies to football tournaments too. 24 and 48 is nonsense.

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With regards the WC, I could totally see it expanding even further in 20 or so years and we end up with some 8-10 week monstrocity, with a undseeded pre-finals finals and seeded teams only playing the back half. This way, FIFA can keep adding in loads of teams from the none-UEFA/CONMEBOL regions without pissing them off too much. 

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