The tension and suspense is over. The home nations no need worry: England and Wales will play each other. I bemoaned why UEFA didn’t place all four home nations in different pots though. Why they didn’t even toy with the possibilities of having all four in one group. That meant; more publicity, more fans, more press, all covered by the ‘Home Nations’ and less money to spend for the hosts. All it would have cost us was one group of boring football. That fans won’t mind. But its just a suggestion aye?
Now, that we know the groups and the teams that belong there, from the relative ease of the host’s group to the dangers that lay in wait in Groups D & E to the relative calm of Group F, How did the draws fare in our minds?
1.UEFA WILL ALWAYS WIN
Michel Platini’s absence from the draws might have taken a little shine off the draws, but then, the draws may have played out exactly how the European football governing body envisioned it. A ‘Group of Death’ or two, given the competitive nature of football and a relatively easy route for the hosts to the final… Or so it seems. Monsieur Platini may have missed the draws, but his imprints didn’t. Exactly how Michel thought it?
2. FRANCE MUST WIN THEIR GROUP
Put aside the rankings of their group rivals, France have landed themselves a very easy group, the easiest any host nation could have wished for. Poland had a rejuvenated Greek team and Czech Rep in 2012, teams not to be cast aside, Ukraine had France & England; Switzerland had Turkey,Czech and Portugal, Austria had Germany & Croatia; Portugal had Spain & Greece. France have?
Their last meeting with Switzerland ended 5-2 (that world cup game in Brazil), they beat Albania twice in ‘Qualifying group I’ and have a decent record against Romania. If they win Group A, they face any of the best 3rd place sides, a 2nd place finish would see them face a 2nd place side in a group C that have the co-hosts of Euro 2012 & Germany. They have no excuses: With the fans behind them and the ‘luck of the draws’, Les Bleus must finish top.
3. THE CZECHS ARE CURSED…
I call it, the Curse of the Euros. The Czech Republic for the past three Euros have dreaded the draws, for one reason: They know its another nightmare. 2004 saw them grouped with Germany, the Netherlands & Latvia and they stunningly won the group, it could have been their year… we all know the story. 2008 was more cruel. After the disappointment of the World Cup, hoping to bounce back, they got Switzerland, Portugal & Turkey, After pipping the co-hosts on opening day & only just losing to Portugal, they lost to Turkey in their last game in extra time after both sides finished tied for points and goal difference. 2012 brought a little bit more optimism. Poland, Greece and Russia were the opponents and they rode their luck to the last 8.
This year’s draw does not do them any favour. Spain are the best side in Europe on current form (the stats support this), Croatia are the tourney’s dark horses and Turkey boast Arda Turan, Hakan Calhanoglu, Nuri Sahin & the most experienced coach at this Euros in Fatih Terim(who would be coaching them for a 3rd tourney). Beat that boys! In the words of a friend… #Pray4CzechRep
4. ITALY MUST START WELL…
I thought to myself when I saw this: This isn’t good for Catenaccio. Just when Italy seemed to be getting their groove, they have been (are being) sent a harsh reminder… A cruel one that they’ll start their group against Belgium and they will play Ireland(The Stoke City of Int’l football) again and Sweden! Oh! Sweden! Euro 2004.. Anybody?
Gli Azzuri have lived on past glories enough! The glory days of Maldini, Totti, Costacurta, Baresi, Baggio, Nesta, Rossi, Mr Lippi, Mr Sacchi are long gone. The Serie A in itself is in decline and one only have to look to know how far behind Italian football is. Milan, Juventus and Inter are no longer dominant forces in Europe. It was all summed up when Roma only advanced from their UCL group with just 6pts – partially because Leverkusen played Barcelona. Its sad when the 2nd best team is humiliated 1-7. The Bel Paese need to recover lost glories and not revel in them. The Brazil 2014 disaster should be forgotten, and all eyes should be on the future. The personnel are finally coming of age: Candreva, Marchisio, Romagnoli, Chiellini et al. It could be too early for Donnaruma but they’ve got Marchetti at Lazio. Buffon should stick around for one more tournament and the ever improving Insigne. Conte knows this. He did it with Juventus. If anyone is that one man that can solve their issues.. Its him, but he has to do it fast, effectively and in a short time.
5. WE ARE IN FOR A SWELL TIME! BECAUSE… THE DIE IS CAST!
The draws are over, the countdown has begun. Only a little over 200days to Euro 2016 and it does look promising. Good groups, good game-schedules (at least for me) and Fantastic hosts. From the certainly overhyped but ‘boring’ England-Wales to the less talked about but ‘interesting’ Iceland-Hungary, it promises to be the best, serving us good football. The new format in itself is a blessing in disguise, especially given that only 8 sides would go home after the Group phase. Expectations are high. This is what club football won’t give you! From now till the training camps open till the squads are announced.. The die is cast brethren!