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England are already favourites to win Euro2008 after being handed an easy group in the qualifiers.

Times Online January 27, 2006


Euro 2008 draw
By Times Online and Agencies



After a week of intense speculation as to who will succeed Sven-Göran Eriksson as England's head coach, that man, whoever he is, this morning learned the nature of his first assignment.

The draw for the 2008 European Championships, held on the banks of Lake Geneva in Montreaux, Switzerland, may be only a momentary distraction from preparations for the World Cup, but England will be encouraged nonetheless to have been drawn in a relatively easy group.

Classified by Uefa in the top tier of European nations, with the likes of Holland, France and Portugal, England will look to justify that billing by getting past Croatia, Russia, Estonia, Israel, Macedonia and Andorra in Group E — a line-up that, if England are indeed one of Europe's elite, should not cause too much trouble. Bookmakers immediately installed England as 9-2 favourites to win the tournament.

Eriksson, who attended the draw, said: "I think England should be happy, there are groups much more difficult than England's. The man after me will be happy with this draw. It's very interesting and very good."

Scotland, on the other hand, face a difficult task in Group B, in which they will face heavyweights Italy and France, who beat them 5-0 in their last meeting in March 2002. Charlie Nicholas, the former Scotland international, gave Walter Smith's side little chance. "I think Walter will be on the phone to the Samaritans tonight," Nicholas said. "It is such a difficult group."

Wales and the Republic of Ireland face a difficult draw in Group D, in which the Czech Republic and Germany will be heavily favoured.

Northern Ireland were drawn in Group F, with Denmark, Sweden and Spain.

Greece, the defending champions, were drawn in perhaps the easiest group, Group C, with Turkey, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Malta, Hungary, Moldova and Norway. The surprise winners of Euro 2004 failed to maintain their momentum and qualify for the World Cup finals, but will hope to be on hand to defend their title in 2008.

Fifty countries are competing for 14 places in the finals along with co-hosts Switzerland and Austria, who qualify automatically.

THE DRAW IN FULL:

Group A
1 Portugal
2 Poland
3 Serbia and Montenegro
4 Belgium
5 Finland
6 Armenia
7 Azerbaijan
8 Kazakhstan

Group B
1 France
2 Italy
3 Ukraine
4 SCOTLAND
5 Lithuania
6 Georgia
7 Faroe Islands

Group C
1 Greece
2 Turkey
3 Norway
4 Bosnia-Herzegovina
5 Hungary
6 Moldova
7 Malta

Group D
1 Czech Republic
2 Germany
3 Slovakia
4 REPUBLIC OF IRELAND
5 WALES
6 Cyprus
7 San Marino

Group E
1 ENGLAND
2 Croatia
3 Russia
4 Israel
5 Estonia
6 Macedonia
7 Andorra

Group F
1 Sweden
2 Spain
3 Denmark
4 Latvia
5 Iceland
6 NORTHERN IRELAND
7 Liechtenstein

Group G
1 Netherlands
2 Romania
3 Bulgaria
4 Slovenia
5 Albania
6 Belarus
7 Luxembourg

- Austria and Switzerland qualify automatically as joint hosts


thetimesonline.co.uk