Euro 2016 Qualifying Draw: England Face Switzerland in Favourable Group

Sam TigheWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterFebruary 23, 2014

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 15:  Steven Gerrard of England celebrates as he scores their second goal during the FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifying Group H match between England and Poland at Wembley Stadium on October 15, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

England have been dealt an attractive group for the 2016 European Championship Qualifiers, with Switzerland the only genuine contenders to tussle with the Three Lions for top spot in the table.

Roy Hodgson will also meet a competent Slovenia outfit, inspired by Samir Handanovic, in addition to Estonia, Lithuania and minnows San Marino.

Ottmar Hitzfeld's Switzerland are currently ranked sixth in the FIFA World Rankings and commanded a top seed for the 2014 FIFA World Cup draw. With a young crop of talent forming, there's no reason to believe they won't be any better than the Three Lions by the time both teams square off.

Alberto Cesar Araujo/Associated Press

They boast prodigious talents such as Xherdan Shaqiri, Granit Xhaka, Fabian Schar and Ricardo Rodriguez in addition to the established Gokhan Inler, Valon Behrami and Diego Benaglio.

Slovenia stand as the favourites to claim third place and therefore a potential place at the finals via a play-off scenario, with San Marino the obvious whipping-boy candidates.

There's every indication that, given the Football Association's support of Hodgson, he'll be around to lead the team regardless of their performance in Brazil this summer.

That sparks questions over who will represent the Three Lions during qualifying, with many expecting the nation to move on from stalwarts Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard. Several youngsters, such as Ross Barkley, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Raheem Sterling, would do well to use the World Cup as an audition for a starting role come France.

It should also be a reminder to right-back prospects in the country that a spot to compete with Kyle Walker could well be opening up; Nathaniel Clyne and Calum Chambers now have two positions to compete for, not just one.

Elsewhere in the draw, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland landed together in Group D alongside heavyweights Germany and newcomers Gibraltar.

Gibraltar were originally scheduled to land in Group C with Spain but couldn't, and la Roja will face Luxembourg in their place in addition to Ukraine and Slovakia.

COSTA DO SAUIPE, BRAZIL - DECEMBER 06:  Switzerland coach Ottmar Hitzfeld speaks to members of the media after the Final Draw for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil at Costa do Sauipe Resort on December 6, 2013 in Costa do Sauipe, Bahia, Brazil.  (Photo by Bu
Buda Mendes/Getty Images

Wales drew a short-straw in the form of Belgium, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Israel, and their enhanced hopes of entering the tournament in its expanded setup have been dashed a little already.

The Netherlands will face Turkey, now led by Fatih Terim full-time, yet again after besting them in the World Cup qualifying drills and must negotiate potentially tricky ties against Iceland and the Czech Republic.

Perhaps the most hard-done by top seed is Portugal (a recurring theme?), as they've drawn Denmark, Serbia and Armenia in a five-team group.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan was close to leading his underdog nation to the World Cup last year, and the Danes will be much-improved as Viktor Fischer and Christian Eriksen develop into world-class talents.