In Depth

Euro 2020: anger grows at ‘scandal’ of the draw format

Belgium star Kevin De Bruyne hits out at Uefa for ‘falsifying the competition’

The European Championships were once an uncomplicated tournament: 16 nations playing in four groups, hosted by one country, with the top two of each pool going through to the quarter-finals.

The format changed in 2016 when 16 teams became 24, and next summer the expansion will also encompass the venues with the Euros being staged in 12 host cities in 12 nations.

Twenty nations - including England and Wales - have qualified for next summer’s tournament, but four berths remain. The draw for the play-offs took place last Friday and included Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. 

Scotland and Ireland are among the 12 host nations - as are Hungary and Romania - and therefore if they qualify for the Euros they must be allocated home games. 

The difficulty for the organisers - and fans looking to make travel arrangements - is that the play-offs are in March, a mere ten weeks before the start of the championship.

Political football

To further complicate matters, reports The Times, there are “political considerations” to consider in the draw, namely ensuring that Russia and the Ukraine are kept apart because of tensions in eastern Ukraine, and doing likewise to avoid Kosovo (should they qualify from the play-offs) playing Russia.

The draw proper for the Euros takes place in Romania on 30 November but for some countries there will be little excitement as they already know some of their opponents.

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A scandal

Belgium, Italy, England, Germany, Spain and Ukraine are the six top seeds, but the Belgians are furious that they have already been grouped with Denmark and Russia, and Finland or Wales to make up the pool depending on the outcome of the play-offs. 

“It is a scandal, honestly,” said Kevin De Bruyne, the Manchester City midfielder, in an interview with Belgian television. 

“This feels like competition distortion. Football is not really football any more, it’s becoming a business.”

De Bruyne believes the draw is being constructed around political sensitivities as opposed to the traditional method of drawing balls from a box. 

“As a player you have to get used to it, but for me they are sort of falsifying the competition,” he said. “It takes all the pleasure away from the draw.”

England could also be left fuming, despite the fact they have claimed a top seeding. France, the world champions, are second seeds and could be in their pool, as could Portugal, the reigning European champions, who are among the third seeds. 

Double Dutch

De Bruyne isn’t alone in finding the new format a puzzle. Holland have been put in group C with the Ukraine, leaving their coach, Ronald Koeman, to muse: “I don’t really understand this new format. I have asked my federation if I still need to bother going to the draw on 30 November.”

Who has qualified for Euro 2020? 

Wales and England are two of the 20 teams that have qualified for next year’s Euro 2020. Four more nations will join them via the play-offs in March. 

Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland will compete in the play-offs and will find out their opponents at the draw on Friday. The main Euro 2020 tournament draw takes place on 30 November. 

Who has qualified? 
  • Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, England, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, Wales
Who are in the play-offs? 
  • Belarus, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Georgia, Hungary, Iceland, Israel, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Norway, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Romania, Scotland, Serbia, Slovakia 
Euro 2020 play-off semi-final draw 
  • Path A: Iceland vs. Romania; Bulgaria vs. Hungary (winner of the Bulgaria vs. Hungary clash will be at home in the path A play-off final)  
  • Path B: Bosnia & Herzegovina vs. Northern Ireland; Slovakia vs. Republic of Ireland (winner of the Bosnia & Herzegovina vs. Northern Ireland will be at home in the path B play-off final) 
  • Path C: Scotland vs. Israel; Norway vs. Serbia (winner of Norway vs. Serbia will host the path C play-off final)  
  • Path D: Georgia vs. Belarus; North Macedonia vs. Kosovo (winner of Georgia vs. Belarus will host the path D play-off final)

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Euro 2020 main draw pots

Uefa has finalised the pots for the Euro 2020 main group stage draw in Bucharest, Romania on 30 November. 

Pot 1 
  • Belgium  
  • Italy (hosts, group A)  
  • England (hosts, group D)  
  • Germany (hosts, group F) 
  • Spain (hosts, group E)  
  • Ukraine
Pot 2 
  • France  
  • Poland  
  • Switzerland  
  • Croatia  
  • Netherlands (hosts, group C)  
  • Russia (hosts, group B)
Pot 3 
  • Portugal  
  • Turkey  
  • Denmark (hosts, group B)  
  • Austria  
  • Sweden  
  • Czech Republic
Pot 4 
  • Wales  
  • Finland  
  • Winner play-off path A  
  • Winner play-off path B  
  • Winner play-off path C  
  • Winner play-off path D

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