Well the draw took place on Saturday in Paris’ Palais des Congrès for the six groups (A-F) in the Euro 2016 Finals to be held in France between June and July next year. There are twenty-four teams this time round and surprisingly three from Britain have made it – England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
England are the ones most is expected of, as they were seeded (Group B) so don’t have initially to face any of the other five deemed front runners (France Rank 25 hosts, Germany Rank 4 World Cup holders, Spain Rank 3 Euro Holders, Portugal Rank 7, and Belgium Rank 1).
England Rank 9 will face Russia Rank 24, Wales Rank 17, and Slovakia Rank 26 in their group and have to finish in the top two to be certain of going forward as one of the knock-out round of sixteen. On paper it has been an excellent draw for the English team, avoiding the likes of say Austria Rank 10, Italy Rank 15 Runners-up last time, and Switzerland Rank 12. Will England make it though thought?
The only team that might be expected to cause an upset to England is new boys there Wales of course, as they have been doing really well since the increasing emergence on the international scene of striker Gareth Bale (ex-Saints & Spurs and nowadays staring for Real Madrid and indeed currently the world’s most expensive player). He has however been capped for his country for a decade now, but he was transformed from a left-back defender into a very successful offensive left-winger striker by Harry Redknapp at the London club. Everyone expects him to score against England, don’t they? Wales will be the underdogs against England and the records certainly are against them, including four defeats this decade at the big competitions, aren’t they? In the last hundred games Wales the Dragons have only won fourteen times– however England will not relish the confrontation, while Wales will be upbeat about their prospects of upsetting England because they have talisman Bale (he better not get injured, eh?). Wales could still progress, however they get on against England.
England’s chances at these Euros depend as much on how the manager Roy Hodgson performs as the players. He is without doubt a very experienced manager who has had the big club jobs around the world – unfortunately he is also a very experienced ‘loser’ and rarely a winner. Oh dear. The England team under him have underperformed in the two major tournaments of Euro2012 and the World Cup 2014. Many blame him for bad squad choices with injured or banned players chosen and the most experienced simply left at home, his eventual team selections, formation, play plan, and lack of substitutions when needed. Will he do better this time round though? We will see, and getting into the knockout stages ought to be straightforward, shouldn’t it? Let’s see how his squad selection goes and who actually gets to play. Will he persist with his well out of form Captain Wayne Rooney who can’t get a kick of the ball these days for his club Manchester United (they say he’s injured but those in the know think that injury is simply a diplomatic way of dropping him as has been widely demanded by fans for months following some awful performances),
Northern Ireland Rank 31 success in getting to the Euros and finally onto the world stage for the first time in three decades, may not be matched by getting through the Group stage because they are up against top team Belgium and Italy Rank 15 – not an easy task, eh?
[There will be a lot of support for our three sides from all across the UK, and perhaps one of them will get lucky and get to the quarter or even semi final but don’t hold your breath – certainly don’t bet though on any one of them ‘reaching the final’ unless you are a real addicted gambler who gets pleasure out of losing money, eh? Odds you can get on England 5/1: Wales 40/1: Northern Ireland 350/1].