The best international teams in UEFA met in Paris on Saturday to find out their fates in next summer’s Euro 2016 tournament. The 24 teams left in the field now know whom they have to play. Thus begin the six months of analysis and speculation: Which teams were fortunate and unfortunate in their draws? Which teams can advance out of their groups?
Winners: France and Spain
On ESPN’s Euro 2016 draw show, Taylor Twellman made an excellent point about the draw. The group A and D winners are set up for a rather easy trip into the semifinals. Upsets happen, and it may not be as easy as it’s likely to be, but the teams which win group A and D will face a third-place team in the round of 16. After the round of 16, they will play a runner up team in their group in the quarterfinal.
This benefits France and Spain, the top teams in these groups. France already knew they were going to be in Group A, so call this “home field advantage,” but Spain really came away as the big winners having to be drawn into this position.
Losers: Italy and Wales
Italy knew going in that they were likely going to get into a tough group. By not getting into pot 1, Italy knew they were due to face one of the top teams in pot 1, as well as possibly face tough teams deep in the pots which have recently improved.
One of those teams is Wales — they have only come through the ranks just recently, thanks to such standouts as Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey. Since the pot seedings are based on the previous five years, Wales was placed in pot 4 even though they are in the top 10 of the FIFA rankings.
Group E: Belgium, Italy, Ireland and Sweden
Because the Euro field has risen from 16 to 24 teams this year, that means 16 of 24 teams will advance out of the group stage. While that may make for some more games for us to watch, more participation from the teams and some more revenue made, this does kind of water down the group stage. A tough group is supposed to be tough for everybody to advance, and when three teams can theoretically advance, a win and two losses could be good enough to move forward in the tournament.
So I went with a group that has the best chance of any of the four teams to not advance to the knockout stage — that is Group E. Do I think Belgium, the No. 1-ranked team, is going to be eliminated in the group stage? No, I do not. However, based on the opposition, Belgium has the best chance of the pot 1 teams to be eliminated (though it won’t happen). Italy, Ireland and Sweden can put forth a good run to get to the top of the group.
Group A: France, Switzerland, Romania and Albania
Yeah, I can’t possibly imagine France having an easier draw than this. They first get Albania, which is arguably the worst team in the tournament. Then they get Romania, which may give France an issue, being so highly defensive.
Side note: France-Romania was probably the worst case scenario for an opening game. I know it’s six months away, but don’t expect many goals to start the tournament off.
After Romania, France gets Switzerland. Yeah, Switzerland was a seeded team in the 2014 World Cup, but they haven’t really done much after the World Cup and have fallen since.
Switzerland and Romania can both beat Albania and — depending on their game — unless France beats them by enough goals to ruin their goal differentials, they should still be able to qualify since four out of six third place teams qualify for the round of 16.