England and Wales will meet at Euro 2016 after Saturday’s Euro 2016 draw in Paris for next year’s 24-team finals paired them together in Group B, while world champions Germany can look forward to meeting neighbors Poland.
The British rivals were drawn alongside Fabio Capello’s former team Russia and tournament debutants Slovakia, and will meet each other in their second match in the northern city of Lens on June 16.
“It will be an incredible atmosphere,” said England manager Roy Hodgson, who will need no introductions to the Welsh side.
“We know all the Wales players — almost all of them play in England. But what we know most of all is the team is very organized, they have a strong spirit and a good spine,” he told the BBC.
Before that, England will begin their campaign against Russia in Marseille on June 11, on the same day as Wales play their first game at a major tournament since 1958 against Slovakia in Bordeaux.
On the same day England meet Wales, Germany and Poland will meet in Group C at the Stade de France as they renew hostilities after encountering one another during qualifying.
The World Cup holders will be fancied to finish top of a group also containing Ukraine and outsiders Northern Ireland, but coach Joachim Loew is not taking anything for granted.
“It means we must be fully concentrated from the first game,” Loew said.
– Applause for Platini –
The draw ceremony for the biggest European Championship in history featured can-can dancers and applause from the delegates in the audience when images appeared on screen of banned UEFA president Michel Platini.
The Frenchman oversaw the expansion of the tournament from the 16 teams who competed at the last European Championship in Poland and Ukraine in 2012, but was unable to attend after failing in his attempt to overturn a 90-day suspension from the game.
The new format that he championed means four of the six best third-placed sides will now advance to the last 16.
As they go looking for an unprecedented third consecutive European Championship triumph, Spain will face the Czech Republic, Turkey and Croatia in Group D, with their opening match to come against the Czechs in Toulouse on June 13.
“We go with the challenge to win a third consecutive European Championship. It would be extraordinary,” said Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque, who can look forward to a rematch with Croatia after narrowly beating them at Euro 2012.
“Croatia have extraordinary players that play in the best teams in Europe and we saw their value in the last European Championship.”
– Kind for France –
Hosts France were handed a kind draw in Group A, being pitted alongside major tournament debutants Albania, Romania and Switzerland, who Les Bleus beat 5-2 at the World Cup in Brazil last year.
France will face Romania in the opening match at the Stade de France on Friday June 10 and coach Didier Deschamps wants to make sure his team top their group, allowing them to face a third-placed side from another section in the round of 16.
“Switzerland, even if we did very well against them at the World Cup, remain a very good nation and will be our most valiant opponents in the group,” Deschamps told beIN Sports.
Italy found themselves in the second pot and the Euro 2012 runners-up were drawn in what looks to be the toughest group on paper, alongside the Republic of Ireland, Sweden and Belgium, the world’s number-one ranked nation, in Group E.
“Belgium are a great team. They have outstanding players, like (Eden) Hazard, (Kevin) De Bruyne, (Romelu) Lukaku, and are one of the favorites,” said Italy coach Antonio Conte.
Ireland qualified for the finals by defeating Bosnia-Herzegovina in a play-off and their coach Martin O’Neill admitted the draw was unforgiving.
“It is something to look forward to for the fans but it couldn’t be tougher,” said O’Neill, who will be hoping to get enough points on the board before facing Italy in Lille in the last group game.
Another of the major tournament newcomers are Iceland, who will come up against Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal in their first game in Group F before also facing Austria and Hungary.
The final will be played at the Stade de France on Sunday July 10.
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