Germany, France and Portugal have been drawn in the same group at the 2020 European Championship in a tough start for the winners of the last three major tournaments.
After seeing Germany drawn at Euro 2020 with the two European heavyweights, Oliver Bierhoff was frustrated and fearful about his country’s prospects. “Another nightmare,” the Germany team general manager said on Saturday. “It is the worst possibility we could catch.”
The memories are still raw of Germany’s humiliation at the 2018 World Cup where the title defense ended in the group stage.
Germany opens against World Cup holder France on June 16 before taking on European champion Portugal four days later.
“I didn’t want to pick these teams,” said Bierhoff, whose goal clinched the European Championship for Germany at Wembley in 1996. “France is the best team in the world.”
This time, at least, Germany will have home advantage, playing all Group F games in Munich as the 24-team European Championship is spread across the continent for the first time with 12 stadiums in 12 countries being used. Budapest is also being used for a game which will be completed by a playoff winner.
Only the top two teams in each of the six groups are certain to qualify for the round of 16 along with the four top-performing runners-up. The newly complicated nature of qualifying means four of the six groups won’t have their final teams confirmed until after the playoffs in March.
It might get even tougher for the Group F runner-up, which could meet England.
That is if Gareth Southgate’s side uses the home advantage of playing all three Group D games at Wembley to top the standings.
England opens with a June 14 reunion with Croatia, which won their 2018 World Cup seminal but lost to the Three Lions later in the year in the Nations League. England also faces the Czech Republic, the only team to beat Gareth Southgate’s side in Euro 2020 qualifying.
“Our analysts won't have to do too much work; they'll be delighted,” Southgate said. “They can put their feet up for Christmas. But yeah, these are teams that we've had really good performances and results against and lost to, so we know there's no room for complacency. And, of course, we have to see who comes through the playoff.”
Glasgow’s Hampden Park is paired with the north London stadium in Group D but Scotland has to qualify by beating Israel and either Norway or Serbia.
Wembley is the main venue for Euro 2020, with seven games including the semifinals and final on July 12.
The tournament will open with Italy hosting Turkey in Rome on June 12. Group A also features Switzerland and Wales, which has to play its first two games in the Azerbaijan capital Baku before the team led by Gareth Bale finishes in Rome against the hosts.
Belgium was due to host games in Brussels but lost the games to Wembley because a new stadium project could not get approval.
Instead, Belgium will have to open against Russia in St. Petersburg and play Denmark in Copenhagen. Roberto Martinez’s side rounds off Group B back in Russia against Finland, which has qualified for a major tournament for the first time.
“In terms of logistics, it’s probably the hardest we could’ve had,” Martinez said. “We need to adjust our preparation and we'll make sure that the logistics are just right.”
Spain has all three games at home in Bilbao, and opens in Group E against Sweden on June 15, then Poland and a playoff winner.
Netherlands is at Amsterdam throughout Group C, opening against Ukraine on June 14 and then Austria and a playoff winner.