This Saturday, the 24 nations competing in next summer’s Euro 2016 tournament will undergo the spectacle that is the group draw. If previous FIFA and UEFA group draws are any indication, it’ll be full of uncomfortable joke flirting between the hosts, multiple dance performances, people in the audience giving the impression they would rather be anywhere else but there and it’ll mean stretching something for 90 minutes that could have been done in 10 minutes.
Either way, we will know the six groups of four teams at some point between noon and 1:30 ET Saturday on ESPN2. Much talk will be on the inevitable Group of Death and whether or not [insert name here] has a chance to win. What we’re here to do is rank each of the four pots to give you a chance to see who teams would want or not want in their groups.
The World Cup champions. After two years, they still haven’t skipped a beat and are the formidable Euro favorites. If Germany can do to the field like they did to Brazil in the 2014 FIFA World Cup, they’ll hoist the trophy at the end of the day.
France is young and this young team is seriously on the rise. While they obviously weren’t involved in qualifying, France and their high powered attacking with guys like Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann and Anthony Martial trickled in with veterans like Olivier Giroud, this French team will be tough to beat. And they will have home field advantage so this could be their breakthrough moment.
Similar to France, Belgium has a young team and have been on the rise. While it didn’t look like it, Belgium is #1 in the FIFA Rankings. And while, to the untrained eye, Belgium isn’t worthy of that top spot, the eye that has brains can see a team with a lot of youth, lot of potential and not a weak spot on the roster. This team will be great eventually, it may be next summer.
The defending Euro champions have been on a rough patch in the past four years. Their low was no doubt bowing out in the group stage at the 2014 World Cup. Only allowing three goals and a loss in Euro Qualifying put them on the right track after Brazil, but there are still question marks before they really become a favorite to win at the Euros.
England was impressive, very impressive in Euro Qualifying. There isn’t much you can do going 10-0-0 and having an 31-3 goal differential in qualifying. Yes, they were kind of embarrassing at the World Cup but they also revamped the roster, they didn’t have Harry Kane in Brazil and probably never heard of Jamie Vardy. Having said that, England had a rather easy group to get ten wins. I know England doesn’t get to choose who they face but except for Switzerland, that was an easy group. Teams like Estonia, Lithuania and San Marino aren’t going to be in the Euros so I’ll hold off on England’s revival until I see more.
As much as Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the best players in the world, even he needs a team in order to do anything in international competitions. That has ben the curse of Ronaldo and Portugal since he began his career. Due to injury, Portugal was forced to adjust without Ronaldo but they will still rely on him a bit too much this summer to warrant being a favorite.
Of the eight teams in this pot, Italy is definitely the better of the eight teams. After just missing out on one of the top seeds for World Cup Qualifying, Italy just misses out on being in Pot 1 and thus an arguably easier group.
Austria may not be a team that is on the tips of people’s tongues as a team to avoid in the group stage of a tournament but it’s tough to ignore that they went 9-1-0 in Euro Qualifying and that included having to travel to Russia and facing Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s Sweden twice.
You may have forgotten but Switzerland was one of the top seeded teams in the 2014 World Cup. They have missed a step but they’re still going to be tough to beat.
Ukraine won’t be a pushover in the group but there will be others who will be tougher competition so if a team was to be drawn against Ukraine, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.
Croatia is going to be similar to Ukraine in that while they will be tough, there are others are going to be tougher opponents in the pot.
Maybe Russia would be more dangerous if the tournament was in Russia, like in the 2018 World Cup, but they’ll have no home field advantage and have lot of unknowns facing them next summer.
Click below for Pot 3 and 4