All eyes may be on Brazil right now as the run-up to the World Cup begins to gather momentum, but the focus is already beginning to shift to what lies in store for Europe’s top sides once this summer’s tournament is over.
That’s because the draw to decide the qualifying groups for the 2016 European Championships took place yesterday, which means anyone who isn’t going to Brazil this year but doesn’t want to wait too long to see the national team play live can now start thinking about getting tickets for a game at Wembley.
Of all the teams in England’s group, the toughest competitor is likely to be Switzerland, who were in fact seeded ahead of England for the World Cup but were drawn as the second seed for the Euro qualifiers – with England in the pool of top seeds.
Overall, though, Roy Hodgson and his side will be moderately pleased with the draw, as the rest of the teams in group E should prove to be beatable – if not walkovers.
Perennial whipping boys San Marino are also among the teams that England will face, and the team will no doubt be looking at this fixture as an opportunity to boost their confidence by racking up a big scoreline.
The rest of the group is made up of Slovenia, Estonia and Lithuania, all of whom will be competing at Wembley in due course.
Euro 2016 will see the format of the tournament be expanded for the first time, with 24 teams qualifying rather than 16. This means that the top team from each group automatically qualifies, along the nine second-best runners-up, and the best third-placed team. Hosts France are also automatically entered into the tournament, with play-offs between the other eight third-placed teams to decide the final four qualifying spots.
This means England’s chances of making it to France are pretty high, although they’ll still need plenty of support along the way, so if you’d like to cheer Roy’s boys on then get yourself to Wembley.