This Saturday’s draw for football’s European Championships next summer will differ from those typical of major tournaments for several reasons.
Firstly, at least one team has already been drawn into each of the six groups because of governing body Uefa’s desire to equally distribute the 12 tournament hosts. Remaining hosts have either been eliminated or are in the play-offs.
Then there is the matter of the play-offs themselves, which are yet to take place and will involve 16 teams. Until that process is completed in March, four of the 24 at Euro 2020 remain unknown.
Political issues also come into play, resulting in Russia and Ukraine being kept apart, and Kosovo – should they qualify via the play-offs – being unable face Bosnia and Herzegovina, Russia or Serbia.
As a result there are a very specific set of guidelines for the draw, which takes place at 5pm on Saturday in Bucharest, Romania.
England will be drawn into Group D as a host country and member of the top-seeded Pot One and will face one of France, Poland, Switzerland or Croatia from Pot Two.
Their potential opponents from pot three are Portugal, Turkey, Austria, Sweden and the Czech Republic, while they will also face the winner from play-off Path C, which could be Scotland if they beat Israel and then one of Norway or Serbia to claim their place as a host.
It is a very similar scenario for Spain in Group E, who have the same options from Pots Two and Three, but will face the winner of play-off Path B instead, with the Republic of Ireland – also among the hosts – and Northern Ireland both in contention for that spot.
In Group A, Italy have already been selected and they too have the same options from Pots Two and Three, although they will definitely be drawn against one of Finland or Wales, who are the only teams in Pot Four to have already qualified. The other will be drawn into Group B.
Germany have automatically been placed in Group F and also have the same options from Pots Two and Three, but will face the winner of play-off Path A or D. If Hungary come through Path A they will be in this group, as they too are hosts.
So far, so labyrinthine. But this is where it starts to get even more complicated – and as such has received criticism, most notably from Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne, who went as far as calling Euro 2020 a “fake competition”.
In Group C, hosts Holland are joined by Ukraine, who were drawn from Pot One having won their qualification group.
They will also face one of the aforementioned teams from Pot Three, as well as the winner of play-off Path A or D, dependent on who wins. If Romania win Path A, they will join the group as they too are hosts; otherwise it will be the winner of Path D.
Group B is all but decided already, with Belgium being allocated from Pot One alongside hosts Russia, who could not be drawn with Ukraine, leaving no other option.
Denmark are the other designated hosts and, as a member of Pot Three, have automatically been placed into this group too. The fourth team will be either Finland or Wales.
Got it? Good. And if that wasn’t confusing enough, Uefa reserves the right to tinker with the groups should political issues look likely to affect knockout-round ties.
Group A (hosts: Rome, Baku)
Group B (Saint Petersburg, Copenhagen)
Group C (Amsterdam, Bucharest)
Winner play-off path A or D
Group D (London, Glasgow)
Winner play-off path C
Group F (Munich, Budapest)
Winner play-off path A or D