Ireland, Northern Ireland, England and Wales are among the countries who will learn their Euro 2016 fate later today when the group stage draw for next summer’s European Championship is made.
Martin O’Neill’s side came through a play-off with Bosnia-Herzegovina last month to reach a second consecutive European Championship and they will be in pot four when the draw is made this evening.
Wales and Northern Ireland booked their spot at the tournament for the first time and they join Ireland in pot four meaning none of the three countries can be paired together in the group stages.
However, the trio can draw Roy Hodgson’s England who are among the top seeds alongside holders Spain, Germany, Portugal and Belgium. As hosts, France are automatically placed as top seeds in group A.
Pot 1: Spain, Germany, England, Portugal Belgium
Pot 2: Italy, Russia, Switzerland, Austria, Croatia, Ukraine
Pot 3: Czech Republic, Sweden, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Hungary
Pot 4: Turkey, Ireland, Iceland, Wales, Albania, Northern Ireland
Euro 2016 sees a change in format from previous years with the top two from six groups qualifying for the last 16 along with the four best third-place countries.
The best case scenario for the Boys in Green or indeed Wales or Northern Ireland would be a group of England, Ukraine and Hungary, where the worst possible group would contain Spain, Italy and Sweden.
From an England point of view, their best group would contain Ukraine, Hungary and Albania, but the worst the Three Lions could hope for would be Italy, Sweden and Turkey.
I decided to do a draw of my own and here were the results.
Group A: France, Italy, Hungary, Turkey,
Group B: Belgium, Ukraine, Poland, Ireland
Group C: England, Switzerland, Slovakia, Northern Ireland
Group D: Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Iceland
Group E: Spain, Croatia, Sweden, Albania
Group F: Portugal, Russia, Romania, Wales
If this was the real thing, it would not be a disaster for any side but Martin O’Neill’s side would need to face familiar opponents Poland and dark horses Belgium.
England would themselves in a clash with Northern Ireland in a relatively easy group, while Wales would face tough opponents in Russia and Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal.
Th real draw takes place in Paris this evening at 1700 GMT.