If the Na­tions League didn’t do it, then this morn­ing’s Euro 2020 draw in Dublin will prob­a­bly make you blow a fuse

The Observer - Sport - - Football Euro 2020 - Philip Corn­wall

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

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