If the Nations League didn’t do it, then this morning’s Euro 2020 draw in Dublin will probably make you blow a fuse
If you have sat through a complex, multilingual draw, anxious to know who your team will face, muttering: “Just pick the damn balls,” at every needless delay, then you should probably avoid tuning in to Sky Sports News at 11am today . While a global World Cup qualifying draw contains more teams, the one for Euro 2020, taking place in Dublin, will really take some beating when it comes to possible reasons not simply to place teams in groups according to the order they are pulled out of the hat.
In part, this is because of the staging of the fi nals across a dozen countries rather than one or two but also the side- effects of the Nations League. While Uefa’s biennial tournament has generally been deemed a success – and not just in England – it does complicate life for its elder sibling.
To start with the simple bit, there will be 10 groups into which the 55 teams will be drawn, with the top two sides in each group claiming places in the 24- team fi nals. The teams are arranged into pots based on how they ranked in the Nations League. But Euro 2020 will take place in 12 host cities from Dublin in the west to Baku in the east ( Wembley has seven games, including the semi - fi nals and fi nal). No host nation qualifi es automatically but Uefa wants all 12 to be able to reach the tournament, so no more than two of them can be placed in one group.
Portugal, the Netherlands, Switzerland and England will be busy in June with the inaugural Nations League fi nals and so unable to play qualifi ers. Consequently, they will each be placed in one of the fi ve fi ve- team groups.
Then there is the weather. In previous qualifying campaigns, those countries most affected by winter have generally been able to avoid scheduling home matches in March or November, but the Nations League occupied four warmer dates this autumn, compressing options. This means Uefa has had to draw up a list of 10 countries, no more than two of which can be in a group.
There is geographical remoteness, too, leading to Kazakhstan being able to play no more than one of 11 possible opponents and Iceland no more than one of fi ve, while Azerbaijan cannot face both Iceland and Portugal.
Finally, it will be no surprise to know there is a list of teams who cannot face each other for political considerations, made shorter by some pairs being in the same pot, such as Russia and Ukraine.
If all this goes off with out a hitch, then Uefa will deserve a round of applause. The suits will be back tomorrow for the much simpler task of the Nations League fi nals draw. Looming in the distance, though, are the Euro 2020 play- offs, which give a second chance to teams based on how they fared in each Nations League section, with the dozen group winners guaranteed at least a play- off semi- fi nal in March 2020.
If we are still hailing the new formats in 16 months’ time, then Uefa should probably hand itself one of the awards with which it disrupts the Champions League draws. Nations League pot: Switzerland*, Portugal*, Netherlands*, England*
These four will be placed in fi ve- team groups
Pot 1: Belgium, France, Spain, Italy, Croatia, Poland
Pot 2: Germany, Iceland, Bosnia- H*, Ukraine*, Denmark*, Sweden*, Russia, Austria, Wales, Czech Republic
Pot 3: Slovakia, Turkey, Rep of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland*, Norway*, Serbia*, Finland*, Bulgaria, Israel
Pot 4: Hungary, Romania, Greece, Albania, Montenegro, Cyprus, Estonia, Slovenia, Lithuania, Georgia*
Pot 5: FYR Macedonia*, Kosovo*, Belarus*, Luxembourg, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Gibraltar, Faroe Islands Pot 6 ( 5): Latvia, Liechtenstein, Andorra, Malta, San Marino * Guaranteed at least a play- off place as a Nations League group winner. Teams in blue are Euro 2020 hosts and no more than two can be in the same group
Winter- weather restrictions
No more than two of the following lowing in a group Belarus, Estonia, Faroe Islands, ands, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Russia, Ukraine
Politically impossible match- atch- ups
Gibraltar v Spain, Bosnia- H v Kosovo, Kosovo v Serbia Geography Kazakhstan cannot play more ore than one of: Andorra, England, and, France, Iceland, Malta, N Ireland, eland, Portugal, Rep of Ireland, Scotland, otland, Spain, Wales
Iceland cannot play more than han one of: Kazakhstan, Armenia, Cyprus, yprus, Georgia, Israel Azerbaijan cannot play more re than one of: Iceland, Portugal