The draw for the Euro 2024 qualifiers has thrown up a repeat of the 2020 final, with Italy facing England in Group C. There were gasps at the Festhalle in Frankfurt as the former Germany striker Karl-Heinz Riedle pulled England’s name out of the second pot of seeds. On paper, it is England’s toughest qualifying group in more than two decades, with Ukraine and North Macedonia also contesting the two available places at the finals in Germany. Malta complete the five-team group.
In part England have been penalised for their shocking performances in the most recent Nations League, which saw them relegated to League B and meant they were absent from the top pot of seeds for the first time since the 2010 World Cup. The double-header against the defending champions represents their first time they have been drawn against one of the giants of European football in qualifying since facing Germany ahead of the 2002 World Cup.
Ukraine and North Macedonia are not to be underestimated, either. The fallout from the Russian invasion has forced Ukraine to play their home fixtures in Poland for the time being but they came within touching distance of qualifying for the 2022 World Cup and were quarter-finalists at Euro 2020 before being knocked out by England. North Macedonia also qualified for Euro 2020 and eliminated Italy from World Cup qualifying earlier this year. However, their veteran talisman Goran Pandev will announced his retirement from the game last month.
Scotland and Ireland have also been handed daunting assignments. Steve Clarke’s team have been drawn against Spain and Norway, while Ireland will face three former champions in the Netherlands, France and Greece. Wales will fancy their chances of qualifying from Group D, with Croatia, Armenia and Turkey their strongest competitors. Northern Ireland are in Group H with Denmark and Finland.
The top two teams from each of the 10 groups will qualify for Euro 2024 along with the hosts, Germany. The remaining three places will be determined by a play-off process based on performances in the recent Nations League.
Scotland, as winners of their League B group, are guaranteed a play-off place if they fail to qualify automatically.
The draw in full
Group A: Spain, Scotland, Norway, Georgia, Cyprus
Group B: Netherlands, France, Ireland, Greece, Gibraltar
Group C: Italy, England, Ukraine, North Macedonia, Malta
Group D: Croatia, Wales, Armenia, Turkey, Latvia
Group E: Poland, Czechia, Albania, Faroe Islands, Moldova
Group F: Belgium, Austria, Sweden, Azerbaijan, Estonia
Group G: Hungary, Serbia, Montenegro, Bulgaria, Lithuania
Group H: Denmark, Finland, Slovenia, Kazakhstan, Northern Ireland, San Marino
Group I: Switzerland, Israel, Romania, Kosovo, Belarus, Andorra
Group J: Portugal, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iceland, Luxembourg, Slovakia, Liechtenstein