The draw for the group stage of the European Championship in France next summer has been made. There are five teams making their debuts at the competition. We will take a look at their chances at the tournament.
The Red and Blacks have been drawn in Group A alongside the hosts France, Romania and Switzerland. Undoubtedly it’s a tough draw for the tournament debutants and they will feel their best chances of getting some points from the tournament would be against Romania. Not much is expected of the Albanians, which also make them a dangerous proposition to deal with.
The small nation of approx. 300,000 inhabitants missed out narrowly on the qualification to the FIFA World Cup last summer after they lost in the playoffs, however, they finished second in a tough group in the Euro qualifiers to book their place in the first major tournament in their history. Their group comprises of Portugal, Austria and Hungary, and they will eagerly fancy their chances of making it to the knockout stages as group runners-up.
The Northern Irishmen finished atop their group in the qualification round and have been placed in a tough group alongside reigning World champions Germany, Ukraine and Poland in the tournament proper. Michael O’Neill’s side will have their hands full and not many fancy them making it to the knockout phase of the competition. However, if the performances in the qualifying are anything to go by, discounting their chances outright would be committing blunder from the seemingly superior sides in the group.
The Slovaks find themselves in a group that has England, Russia and Wales apart from themselves. All three sides appear stronger on paper and Slovakia will need to raise their game considerably to progress to the next stage of the competition.
Led by Real Madrid’s world record signing Gareth Bale, Wales qualified for the Euros in second behind Belgium from Group B. Their group at the tournament proper looks enticing. They cannot be ruled out to finish as group winners; and, in worst case scenario they can be expected to qualify for the knockout stage as one of the six best third-placed teams.