What were the highlights from the Euro 2016 draw?

It’s been an autumn of ups and downs for international football.

The repercussions of the FIFA bribery scandal continue to emerge, casting a long shadow over the sport’s reputation and damaging public faith in the beautiful game.

However, the conclusion of the Euro 2016 qualifiers saw four home-nation sides heading to France – the largest contingent of teams from the British Isles since 1958 – and gave cause for real optimism.

As last Saturday’s draw came to a close we could stop pinching ourselves, and start looking forward to the tournament – and it looks set to be an absolute cracker, too.

Read on for our main highlights from the Euro 2016 draw.

England vs Wales: A battle of Britain

highlights from the Euro 2016 draw

The group stage clash that has gained the most attention in the media is the Group B grudge match between England and Wales in Lens on 16th June.

Wales’ meteoric rise over the last few years has been staggering. In just four years they have risen from well outside the world’s top 100 to inside the top ten earlier this year, and above England. No mean feat.

The likes of Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey have galvanised a Welsh side that are riding a wave of confidence going into next summer’s tournament.

Before the draw, Wales manager Chris Coleman stated he’d prefer to avoid England in the groups, regarding the “Battle of Britain” game as a possible “distraction” to his preparations.

He reasserted this on Saturday evening, saying “We would have wanted to avoid it, but we look forward to it.”

However, his view isn’t shared by either Ramsey or former captain Kevin Ratcliffe, who both expressed hope of facing England. Indeed, Ratcliffe said “There are countries that actually scare me more than they do.”

Expect a raucous atmosphere in the Stade Bollaert-Delelis for what will be seen as the derby match of the group stages.

Also, employers should be expecting a fair few leave requests and sick days as it’s a 2pm start on a Thursday!

Republic of Ireland and The Group of Death

highlights from the Euro 2016 draw: unhappy o'neill

“Honestly, I must have stopped going to Mass.”

That was the reaction of Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill immediately after Saturday’s draw.

Another of the highlights of the Euro 2016 draw is Group E, a pool containing the world’s top-ranked side, Belgium, major-tournament heavyweights Italy and a dangerous Swedish side led by the talismanic Zlatan Ibrahimovich.

Neutrals will be eyeing up a mouthwatering clash between Belgium and Italy on the 13th June, while on the same day, the Irish will take on Sweden in what may prove to be a must-win game.

O’Neill’s mood was reflective, and clearly disappointed. “I thought I was going to enjoy the draw; I’m not sure I have done,” he said.

However, the plucky Irish team may well relish their role as group underdogs.

Some have argued that without a team full of star players, it is team spirit and a backs-against-the-wall attitude that is central to their hopes, as highlighted by their dramatic win over Germany in October.

Whatever happens, this group is going to be a thrilling spectacle and is definitely one of the highlights of the Euro 2016 draw.

The World Champions and the Northern Irish

Group C plays host to Northern Ireland alongside Germany, Poland and Ukraine.

There are no easy games at tournament level but expect a real battle between Poland, Ukraine and Northern Ireland for second place behind Germany if FIFA’s rankings are anything to go by – with all three sides within five places of each other.

The Irish have a quiet confidence about themselves. A strong defence and an excellently managed qualifying campaign have done wonders for team spirit and confidence.

The last two meetings with Poland and Ukraine were both draws, and while last time they met the Germans they were hammered at home, Rory McIlroy isn’t writing off his homeland recording a shock result:

Rory McIlory tweet on highlights from the Euro 2016 draw

Other highlights from the Euro 2016 draw

A few other highlights for you all…

highlights from the Euro 2016 draw: Cristiano Ronaldo

The bookies reckon Portugal will be licking their lips at the prospect of their group (Group F) and Cristiano Ronaldo’s odds to take home the Golden Boot have shortened from 9/1 to 7/1 since the draw.

The first game of the tournament will be at the Stade de France between France and Romania on Friday, 10 June at 20:00 BST – get that one in your calendar.

Current champions Spain will face the Czech Republic, Turkey and Croatia in what will be another competitive group.

After a poor showing in Brazil 2014, the Spanish will be desperate to reassert themselves as Europe’s dominant footballing force.

Getting ready for France

England are getting ready for next summer with a pair of challenging friendlies against Germany and the Netherlands in March.

Will we see Hodgson taking a last chance to experiment with the likes of Spurs duo Eric Dier and Dele Alli, or will he be focusing on his final tournament 11.

In light of the electric performances of Ross Barkley and Jamie Vardy, will there be space for captain Wayne Rooney up top?

The Republic have games against Switzerland and Slovakia while the Northern Irish and Welsh are yet to announce their fixture plans.

At BAC Sport we’re getting ready too. Check out our France 2016 packages here, and do get in touch now regarding any of our sports tours for 2016.

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