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Euro 2024: Who could England face? Pots, potential groups and how to watch Saturday’s draw

The background

This time last year, we were approaching the conclusion of one of the most thrilling group stages in FIFA World Cup history, spending our winter days watching shocks aplenty unfold in Qatar.

A year flies by in football, and across Europe, all eyes are on the next international tournament as Germany prepares to welcome the continent’s elite for UEFA Euro 2024.

The qualification process isn’t quite complete, with 12 teams – Wales among them – still vying to reach the tournament through the play-offs, which will be held next March. However, 21 of the 24 participants have been decided and we are all set for Saturday’s group-stage draw.

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Fans across the continent will be glued to their screens when the draw takes place in Hamburg – one of 10 host cities for the tournament – on Saturday.

Who will be drawn into the dreaded ‘group of death?’ Who will be handed a kind route to the latter stages? Who will England face in their latest bid to bring football home? All those questions and more will be answered on Saturday.

Here, we run through everything you need to know ahead of the draw.

The pots

Four pots of six teams make up the draw, though three of those sides – the play-off winners in the fourth pot – are yet to be determined. As hosts, Germany will be the top seed in Group A, but the rest of the teams have been arranged according to their overall performances in qualifying.

For example, past successes count for nought for reigning champions Italy, who ranked 18th overall in the UEFA qualification standings and will, as a result, be in pot four. Portugal, France, Spain, Belgium and England had the top five records in the qualification process, so they join Germany as top seeds.

Pot 1: Germany (go into Group A as hosts), Portugal, France, Spain, Belgium, England.

Pot 2: Hungary, Turkey, Romania, Denmark, Albania, Austria.

Pot 3: Netherlands, Scotland, Croatia, Slovenia, Slovakia, Czech Republic.

Pot 4: Italy, Serbia, Switzerland, play-off winner A, play-off winner B, play-off winner C.

Who is in the play-offs?

There are three separate play-off branches, which were determined by results in the most recent UEFA Nations League campaign. One team qualifies from each branch, with each consisting of a four-team knockout tree, with the semi-final matchups listed below. All ties are one-legged with extra-time and penalties if needed.

Play-off path A: Wales v Finland, Poland v Estonia.

Play-off path B: Bosnia and Herzegovina v Ukraine, Israel v Iceland.

Play-off path C: Georgia v Luxembourg, Greece v Kazakhstan.

England’s best-case scenario

If we judge the teams purely on their qualification rankings, Austria and the Czech Republic would be the weakest sides in pots 2 and 3, respectively, alongside a yet-to-be-decided playoff winner in pot 4. Gareth Southgate would likely fancy England’s chances against those sides.

However, Austria held Belgium in qualification and have enjoyed a resurgence under former Manchester United boss Ralf Rangnick, while the Czech Republic reached the quarter-finals of Euro 2020.

If we look at the latest edition of the FIFA World Rankings, Albania (62nd) are considered the weakest side in pot 2, with Slovenia (54th) the lowest ranked in pot 3. Serbia (34th) are the lowest-ranked side confirmed in pot 4, but Estonia – way down in 122nd – are among the play-off teams.

Potential best-case draw for pot 1 teams: Albania, Slovenia, play-off winner.

England’s worst-case scenario

The expansion of the European Championships to 24 teams did remove some of the jeopardy from the group stage, with the four best third-place finishers advancing to the last 16. However, there is still the prospect of a real ‘group of death’, with several heavyweights lurking outside pot 1.

In terms of tournament pedigree, many would see 1992 winners Denmark – who are ranked 19th in the world and reached the semi-finals at Euro 2020 – as the team to avoid in pot 2.

The Netherlands and Croatia are the standout names in pot 3, with both teams having overcome Southgate’s England in knockout games – the Dutch doing so in the 2019 Nations League Finals and Croatia rallying to end the Three Lions’ 2018 World Cup dreams in the last four.

Holders Italy are in pot 4, having scraped through their qualification group with a tense (and controversial) goalless draw with Ukraine after failing to reach the last two World Cups. Experienced tournament viewers will know, however, to never rule the Azzurri out. Might England get rematches with the two teams responsible for their most painful defeats under Southgate?

Potential worst-case draw for pot 1 teams: Denmark, Croatia, Italy.

When and how to watch

The draw ceremony is due to start at 17:00 UK time on Saturday, though they can often be drawn-out affairs! It will be broadcast for free via UEFA’s website, as well as being shown in full on their YouTube and social media channels.

When does Euro 2024 start?

The tournament will begin on June 14 next year, with Germany featuring in the opening game at Bayern Munich’s Allianz Arena.

The group stage concludes on June 26, with the round of 16 taking place between June 29 and July 2. July 5 and 6 are the dates pencilled in for the quarter-finals, with the semis taking place on July 9 and 10.

All eyes will be on Berlin on July 14, when the Olympiastadion plays host to the final. Which two teams will make it there?

Harry Carr
Harry Carr
Harry is a freelance sports journalist with experience of working for the Racing Post, Stats Perform, Opta Analyst and more, covering major events across all sports but holding a particular love for the beautiful game.
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