Perennial underachievers England have been drawn against neighbours and rivals Wales, whilst beaten finalists four-years ago Italy have been drawn into the dreaded group of death following the draw for the 2016 UEFA European Championships was made in Paris on Saturday night.
In what was a gala ceremony in the French capital it was the mouth-watering match-up between England and Wales that stole the headlines.
Whilst the Three Lions will enter the tournament, to be hosted by France next June / July off the back of a perfect qualifying record they will face a Wales team that is loaded with stars such as Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey.
England coach Roy Hodgson was looking forward to the game against Wales, which will be the second for both nations in the group as the Three Lions, who have never tasted success at any European Championship will also face the likes of Russia and Slovakia.
“It’s been exciting following their progress,” Hodgson told the BBC following the draw.
“We know their players because they all basically play in England, but we know the team is well organised, they have a fantastic team spirit and a fantastic spine. In Ashley Williams, Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale they have really class European players. Chris has moulded the rest of the players around that well.”
“But we have respect for the other teams as well. You’re just happy to be here to play against somebody. You take what you get, really.”
“I’ve not come across either Russia or Slovakia in my international career so it’s two newcomers, but we respect them and it’s a question of doing plenty of research so we know enough about them as we think we do about Wales.”
Despite saying prior to the draw that he hoped Wales avoided a match-up against England, Welsh manager Chris Coleman was delighted that his sided drew their neighbours as his country qualified for their major tournament in 57-years.
“It’s going to be a great game,” Coleman said.
“Roy, the campaign they had, it was a fantastic return. You’re looking at a lot of teams with a lot of quality. England are one of the best teams but we look forward to it.”
“When you get to a tournament you’ve got to get it right on the 90 minutes. It doesn’t matter who you play, you’ve got to concentrate on yourselves. Slovakia have beaten Spain, Russia will be strong. You’ve got to be prepared, be ready.”
“I was so honoured and proud to be here. We’re all patriotic, just to be here involved is absolutely fantastic. I’m very excited. There’s some hot competition, all the top teams have earned the right to be here. It’ll be a fantastic tournament.”
Meanwhile Italy, the 2012 runner-up has been drawn in the dreaded group of death alongside world number one Belgium, the Zlatan Ibrahimovic lead Sweden and the Republic of Ireland.
Spain will face the likes of the Czech Republic, Turkey and Croatia as they attempt to become the first nation to win this tournament on three consecutive occasions.
Reigning world champions Germany have been drawn to face the likes of Poland, the Ukraine and Northern Ireland, whilst hosts France will kick off the tournament against Romania.
Euro2016 Group Stages Draw:
Group A: France; Romania; Albania; Switzerland
Group B: England; Russia; Wales; Slovakia
Group C: Germany; Ukraine; Poland; Northern Ireland
Group D: Spain; Czech Republic; Turkey; Croatia
Group E: Belgium; Italy; Sweden; Republic of Ireland
Group F: Portugal; Iceland; Austria; Hungary
(Photo Source: Zimbio)