Since the European Championship field bloated to 24 teams starting with the 2016 edition, much of the talk has focused on the lack of drama. There are 55 member nations in UEFA, and since nearly half of them now qualify, where’s the real danger?
Apparently, it lies in the group draw.
Euro 2020’s field was revealed on Saturday during a ceremony in Bucharest, and a cutthroat Group F draw stood out. Defending European champion Portugal was grouped with reigning World Cup champion France and 2014 World Cup champion Germany, along with a qualifying playoff winner yet to be determined.
With the qualifying format changed this cycle, and 12 nations hosting in commemoration of the tournament’s 60th anniversary, perhaps a threat like this always loomed. There’s a lot of gobbledygook in the process, so here are the key points: With 10 total groups producing two finalists apiece, plus the Nations League acting as a safety net, big teams had a better chance of popping up in random pots for the final draw.
From there, luck went against Portugal, France and Germany like perhaps we’ve never seen before. Over a decade ago, The Guardian deemed Group C at Euro 1996 the toughest ever, with eventual champion Germany facing three other teams in the FIFA top 10 at the time.
Groups used to be more dire in general, considering only eight teams made the competition from 1980-1992 and then 16 from 1996-2012. But based strictly on contemporaneous trophy haul, next summer’s Group F tops them all.
And guess who could still join those three giants? Memorable 2016 quarterfinalist Iceland, which has a chance to qualify out of the Path A playoff. That field also includes Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary, and the four-team mini-tournament will be contested in late March.
If Romania wins, however, Euro 2020 bylaws require the winner of the Path D playoff to join Group F. That collection of teams includes four minnows in Georgia, Belarus, North Macedonia and Kosovo.
Full Euro 2020 draw
Playoff Winner D/A
Playoff Winner C
Playoff Winner B
Playoff Winner A/D
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