Euro 2012 Draw: Best and Worst Scenarios for England
At the end of this week, England will discover the degree of difficulty they will face early on next summer at Euro 2012. On Friday, each of the 16 qualified sides will discover their fate with the groups set to be drawn in Kiev.
With a seeding system published a fortnight ago, there are several potential clashes England will be desperate to avoid so soon in the format. Despite Fabio Capello’s side being placed in Pot 2, theoretically favoured to advance as group runners-up, there is a very real possibility of some severely lopsided groups being formed.
With strong teams lurking in each tier of the draw, Friday will see some sides delivered early blows to their pre-tournament prospects, whilst others will see their odds dramatically shorten. Although it is out of their hands, this is very much the first obstacle England need to successfully negate to enhance their chances of going far.
With no Wayne Rooney likely to be available in this early stages of the summer spectacle, England must escape unscathed on Friday and come away with a friendly draw.
Pot 1: Poland, Spain, Netherlands, Ukraine
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From Pot 1, it is literally a case of heaven or hell. With co-hosts Ukraine and Poland plummeting down the rankings in recent years, England will either be facing one of the top two teams in the world, or a team not ranked in the top 50.
As mystifying as it is that two teams ranked so low (55th and 66th) should somehow both be occupying berths at this championship, if England manage to draw one of them, there will be no complaining from Fabio Capello.
Both deflate the level of quality at the tournament and will be hugely coveted prey by 12 teams on Friday, even though they will be playing at home.
With Poland tumbling all the way down to No. 66 in the world—below the likes of Libya and Burkina Faso—they would provide England with the ideal opposition. The Poles house fewer offensive threats than the Ukraine and, if facing them, Capello would be most confident of masterminding a route to victory.
Regardless of England’s encouraging win over Spain, the performance in the recent friendly highlighted just how stern an examination the reigning world and European champions would give them. Man for man, possibly only Wayne Rooney and Ashley Cole would feature in a combined starting lineup such is the quality the Spanish bring.
Fabio Capello will be keen to avoid this predicament at all costs until the very latter stages of Euro 2012.
Best-Case Scenario: Poland, England…
Worst-Case Scenario: Spain, England…
Pot 2: Germany, Italy, England, Russia
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Excluding England for a minute, for everyone else involved in the draw, Pot 2 will prove pivotal for determining several key tournament dynamics.
For a team waiting in the lower-seeded groups, if Spain and Netherlands are paired with Germany, Italy or England, chances for qualification would already be greatly diluted in that potential group, and at least one of that trio will meet the top two sides in the world.
Germany, Euro 2008 finalists and 2010 World Cup semifinalists, would be the most feared team in this quartet—certainly a foe England will be relieved they will be initially avoiding. Having recently outclassed the Netherlands 3-0 in a friendly, the Germans will be slightly agitated their ranking sees them competing out of the second tier of contenders.
Russia are the only team in Pot 2 not in the world’s top 10, and will surely be the opponent each side would prefer to meet out of the four. However, having been surprise semifinalists at Euro 2008, it would be unwise to totally underestimate Dick Advocaat’s men.
Best-Case Scenario: Poland, Russia*
Worst-Case Scenario: Spain, Germany*
Pot 3: Croatia, Greece, Portugal, Sweden
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There will be some concerned expressions etched on the faces of many if England are drawn with Portugal or Croatia from Pot 3 on Friday. This scenario would see the landscape immediately cut a tougher picture, with both sides enjoying recent success over England.
If matched with Sweden or Greece, qualification will seem less of a conundrum for Fabio Capello.
Both Portugal and Croatia feature in the top eight or the world rankings and would provide different questions for England to overcome. Despite a lethargic qualifying attempt, where they only made the playoffs on goal difference, with Cristiano Ronaldo on board, Portugal will trouble anyone they meet.
Croatia will be bringing some of the outstanding young prospects in European football, all poised to become featured names should they prosper when given a platform at Euro 2012.
As with Portugal, they limped through qualification behind Greece, but would pose far more danger to England than the Greeks.
It is surely Greece who would be Fabio Capello’s ideal adversary from Pot 3. Having only qualified for five major tournaments in their history, the Greeks have been knocked out four times before the knockout stages.
Granted, the only time they progressed they stunned the world, winning the entire tournament in 2004, but any repeat of that at the moment seems unfathomable.
Given the way England outplayed Sweden at Wembley this month, few English fans would be concerned should they meet again next summer.
Best-Case Scenario: Poland, England, Greece…
Worst-Case Scenario: Spain, England, Portugal…
Pot 4: Denmark, France, Czech Republic, Republic of Ireland
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From the final foursome, it is simply a case of avoiding France.
As much as several tempestuous incidents from perennially temperamental squads continue to hinder their recent record in major tournaments, the French still carry a plethora of star quality. Any team boasting Hugo Lloris, Patrice Evra, Franck Ribery, Florent Malouda and Karim Benzema, among others, has the potential to dissolve any team’s hopes of reaching the quarterfinals.
After qualifying imperiously, as they have done for several recent major tournaments, Denmark generally fail to turn up at the major events. The one exception to that, as with Greece, was when they won the tournament in 1992, but most would favour being paired up with them here.
Should England face the Danes or a Czech Republic side alarmingly past their peak and now down to 33rd in the world, many would be confident of Capello navigating them through.
Despite fielding a team of players who few could argue would get anywhere near an England 11, Fabio Capello will be keen to avoid meeting Ireland. The hordes of fervent support that loyally accompany the Irish at major finals would simply be whipped up into a frenzy should they meet their old enemy.
England will not want to contest the always unpredictable nature of a derby on such a grand scale.
Best-Case Scenario: Poland, England, Greece, Czech Republic
Worst-Case Scenario: Spain, England, Portugal, France
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So, come Friday, who do you want?
Will England be forced to fight their way out of a group of death, or will the football gods favour the national side with a favourable draw?
Just how much of a test will England’s group give them with no Wayne Rooney? Would a harder draw be likely to scrutinize his probable squad selection further?
With the groups determined, fans will be able to plot their country’s advance to the final. If England avoid the powerhouses of Spain, the Netherlands and Germany, where will they be likely to face them?
Be sure to check in on Friday to witness the fallout from the draw!
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