Terry Duffelen
Mon 8 February 2010

Caravan To Kiev - Euro 2012 Draw

There was a time when you had to take a portable radio or Walkman with you if you had to go out during an important draw. Or worse, you'd find yourself peering through TV shop windows to see if there was any news you could pick up. These days we live in a world of mobile internets, smart phones, iPod-pads and all that. So it was, during a tortuous visit to the hated TK Max in Croydon that I whipped out my phone to check out the Euro 2012 draw and this is what I found:

Group A

Germany
Turkey
Austria
Belgium
Kazakhstan
Azerbaijan

Could we face a European Championships without Germany? It's possible. Despite failing to qualify for the World Cup, the Turks will back themselves to qualify. Belgium are ever improving with a new batch of rising young players and in Dick Advocaat, have an experienced head coach. It would not be a tremendous surprise to see the Belgians challenge, especially if they can integrate Marouane Fellaini into the team. Austria too are showing signs of waking from their slumber after a poor Euro 2008. Add to that some tough journeys to Kazakhstan and the Azuris and you have a very tough group.

Group B
Russia
Slovakia
Republic of Ireland
FYR Macedonia
Armenia
Andorra

Ireland are denied a shot at vengeance against the French and face a tough challenge against World Cup qualifiers Slovakia and World Cup chokers Russia. The Russians should have shaken off their complacency following their humiliation at the hands of Slovenia in November. Macedonia may not be spectacular but are capable of causing a shock should anyone make the mistake of under-estimating them.

Group C
Italy
Serbia
Northern Ireland
Slovenia
Estonia
Faroe Islands

Yikes! Hardly a smooth path for the World Champions is it? Both Serbia and Slovenia are heading to South Africa this year. While the Slovenians may be regarded as fortunate in that they capitalized on Russian complacency, they have proved themselves very difficult to break down. Serbia on the other hand are tipped to progress to the second round in the World Cup. And then of course there is Northern Ireland, a team that, while not consistent enough to finish in the top two, are more than capable of an upset.

Group D
France
Romania
Bosnia-Herzegovina
Belarus
Albania
Luxembourg

Given France's obvious frailties in World Cup qualifying you'd have to say that the top seeds in this group are vulnerable, especially to the Bosnians who were unlucky to miss the cut themselves. Having said that, it is very likely that coach Raymond Domenech will be gone and there may be some personnel changes. Considering that Romania are nothing special these days and you have to conclude that the Euro 2000 winners have draw a favourable group (queue clenched fists and gnashing of teeth from across the Irish Sea).

Group E
Netherlands
Sweden
Finland
Hungary
Moldova
San Marino

Those of us looking for a revival of the Magyars last year were disappointed as they fell away in their qualifying group. Barring a significant improvement in Finland it's difficult not to see the Netherlands and Sweden scampering off with this group.

Group F
Croatia
Greece
Israel
Latvia
Georgia
Malta

Croatia should put the 2010 qualifying performance down to a colossal Euro 2008 hangover and take heart form what is a very winnable group. Greece are very hard to break down but in Niko Kranjcar and Luca Modric, the Croats have the players to do it. Israel always command respect but have struggled to win the big games. Latvia were qualifiers in 2004 so will need to be treated with extra caution.

Group G
England
Switzerland
Bulgaria
Wales
Montenegro

England benefit from being drawn in a five team group but this may have an affect on automatic qualification should they finish second. Objectively however, this should not happen. Switzerland are an emerging force under coach Ottmar Hitzfeld but England have the players to overcome them. Other concerns for Fabio Capello will be a young and upcoming Welsh team and the prospect of him having to integrate and new centre back pairing should he decide that Ferdinand and Terry will not be able to last until 2012. Bulgaria and Montenegro command respect but should be overcome.

Group H

Portugal
Denmark
Norway
Cyprus
Iceland

The Portuguese will need to stock up on their thermals as they face trips to Iceland and Scandinavia twice. Reunited with Denmark this group should take on a familiar air from the World Cup qualifier. Beware Cyprus though. Dangerous underdogs.

Group I
Spain
Czech Republic
Scotland
Lithuania
Liechtenstein

Fantastic draw for Scotland. Realistically, Craig Levein would have been targeting second place given their seeding and given the seeds are the European champions and one of the favorites to win the World Cup the rest of the group should focus on the runners-up spot and prepare for a play-off. The Czechs, technically are favorites to do just that but are a spent force and there for the taking. This could Scotland's time. But then again they could lose to Lithuania at Hampden.

How qualifying works
The group winners join hosts Poland and Ukraine in the Finals. The second placed team with the best qualifying against their third, fourth and fifth place opponents also go through. The other runners up will play off against each other over two legs. And yes, the play-offs are seeded.

The Caravan To Kiev has a long journey ahead and doesn't get underway until September. Needless to say, we'll be watching and blogging with great interest. We'll be discussing the draw a little further in this week's Sound Of Football Podcast.

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