Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Euro 2016 qualifying draw - much to do about nothing


With the Euro expanding to 24 teams for the next edition in France 2016, the qualifiers for the tournament seem to be a bit of a simple walk through for the major nations. The groups:
  • Groupe A : Pays-Bas, République tchèque, Lettonie, Turquie, Islande, Kazakhstan
  • Groupe B : Bosnie-Herzégovine, Belgique, Pays de Galles, Israël, Chypre, Andorre
  • Groupe C : Espagne, Ukraine, Biélorussie, Macédoine, Slovaquie, Luxembourg
  • Groupe D : Allemagne, Eire, Ecosse, Pologne, Géorgie, Gibraltar
  • Groupe E : Angleterre, Suisse, Estonie, Lituanie, Slovénie, San Marin
  • Groupe F : Grèce, Finlande, Irlande du Nord, Roumanie, îles Féroé,
  • Groupe G : Russie, Suède, Monténégro, Autriche, Moldavie, Liechtenstein
  • Groupe H : Italie, Croatie, Bulgarie, Norvège, Azerbaïdjan, Malte
  • Groupe I : France, Portugal, Danemark, Serbie, Arménie, Albanie
France is in Group I but since they are the host nation they are qualified directly, being placed in the group with 5 teams will guarantee them a series of friendlies as they prepare for the tournament.

The rules for the groups - the top 2 of each group go through and the best third placed team go through directly. The remaining 8 3rd place teams will play a home/away playoff for the last four spots. Which means...basically every major nation should be in France in 2 years. Looking over the groups I cannot imagine any of the heads of series not getting through. Russia maybe the only nation that has a potential threat from the likes of Sweden, Montenegro and Austria to finishing in the top two. What to watch will really be about which nation finishes second in each group. But even there I cannot imagine the likes of Turkey, Belgium, Ukraine, Poland, Switzerland, Romania, Sweden, Croatia or Denmark not being strong favorites to finishing in second...or at worst 3rd in which case they go to a playoff!

Bottom line...with 24 nations in the tournament the qualifiers, for the tournament seem to be nothing more than glorified friendlies for the big nations. Alas, how I miss the days when the Euro had 8 nations and qualifiers actually meant something. I know I know...I am harping on the "good old days."  

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