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Tea Time: Euro Draw

 Robert: So I was able to watch the Euro draw on my lunch break and wanted to get your take on everything. I am going to give my uninformed American thoughts first and then feel free to give me your more refined beliefs.

Pool 1

  • Greece
  • Russia
  • Czech Republic
  • Poland

I think Russia wins the group easily. As far as the second spot goes I have no idea, but I’ll say Poland because they’ll have home field advantage. Looking through this group it seems ridiculously easy.

Pool 2

  • Netherlands
  • Denmark
  • Germany
  • Portugal

This is easily the best pool. I think the Netherlands and Germany make it through, with Germany nabbing the top spot. Putting this group alongside the first one seems unfair. I feel horrible for Portugal and Denmark who both would have made it out of the first group.

Pool 3

  • Spain
  • Ireland
  • Croatia
  • Italy

A solid group. I see Spain getting out and maybe Croatia or Ireland. Although I haven’t seen Italy play under their new head coach, so if they gel they could move on as long.

Pool 4

  • Sweden
  • France
  • England
  • Ukraine

For my money the second weakest group. I think that England and France move along. England seems to have a lot of solid young players and it seems that the French team has purged the demon that was the last World Cup. I really hope that Sweden makes if over France though. Do you think Rooney gets left off the English roster?

Also, side question: why don’t stadiums allow booze to be sold during Champions League’s games?

J-Rodd: Seems like your uninformed American view is matched by my thoughts.

Pool 1 is made up of the weakest teams from every single pot i.e. Russia are the worst team from pot 2, Poland the weakest in pot 1, etc That is group is ridiculous but you are right Russia should sail through and then I reckon it is between Greece and Poland for 2nd, with Poland edging it because of home advantage.

 Pool 2 is the ‘Group of Death.’ There is always one and this is most definitely it. Germany and Netherlands are the most likely teams to win overall with Spain and Portugal have match winners such as Nani and arguably the best player in the tournament, a certain Cristiano Ronaldo. Denmark finished ahead of Portugal in the qualifying proceedings and so they are strong but will probably finish bottom. I tip Germany and Netherlands to progress.

Pool 3 is the next toughest. Spain should progress easily enough but I struggle to predict the next team. Ireland are the weakest on paper but have only lost 2 competitive matches in the last 17. Croatia are unpredictable but have some quality players who, if they play well could help them progress quite far in the tournament. Italy are hard to judge. They have good players but they finished bottom of their WC group having lost 2 and drawing with New Zealand - having said that they qualified easily and so are not to be underestimated. i fancy Spain and Croatia.

 Pool 4  England should qualify but as an England fan, I am not delighted with the group. Our base is Poland and we play our matches in Ukraine so we have plane journeys to all of our matches. We have not beaten France in a long time and when we beat Sweden in a friendly at Wembley last month, that was our first victory against them since 1968. France should get through in second but they have a typically French attitude and as was seen in the World Cup, could implode at any moment. They have a very good team however and laurent Blanc seems to be turning them into a side which could challenge anyone on its day. Sweden are a good solid team but Ibrahimovic is almost always useless and if he does not play well, they have no individual player which any team would fear. Ukraine have only home advantage to rely on. I fancy England and France.

 What this draw has shown is that there are problems with UEFAs rankings. Guaranteeing a place in the finals for the host nation is fine but making them top seeds, particularly when there are 2 of them, is ridiculous as they are the 2 lowest ranked teams in the competition. Greece are still seeded very highly because they remarkably won in 2004 by winning multiple games 1-0. This was maybe the biggest shock in any major tournament and has meant that since this time, they always get an easy qualifying group and so always qualify and get ranked highly despite not being very good. Errors like this have resulted in 2 below average teams reaching the quarter finals from pot 1 and at least 1 potential winner going out in the group stage. There is always a ‘Group of Death’ as I said but this year, the draw has been unfortunately extreme.

 With regards Rooney, his appeal is on Thursday so then we will find out whether he will be banned for 3 games or less. However it could be raised to 4 if UEFA deem it to be a frivolous appeal. If it remains at 3 games or is reduced, in my opinion he has to go. If we have ambitions of winning, then we need Rooney. If we cannot qualify out of our group without him, then we have no chance of winning anyway. All leaving him out means is that we can take an extra eligible striker. If we take Rooney, Bent, Welbeck and Defoe, then we have 3 strikers to play in the group. In addition to Walcott and Young, this is more than enough. We could play 4-3-3 with those 2 on the wings and Bent up front alone anyway and then Rooney will be fresh for the quarters. We leave him out and then maybe we can take Sturridge or Zamora instead. I cant see either of those 2 getting a game/making the difference between winning and not winning the competition. I feel very strongly that he must go, and this is not Man Utd bias either.

I’m not sure why alcohol has been banned but I think that it is a UEFA guideline and so they are probably concerned about violence as certain teams’ fans can become violent even without beer.

Robert: I would fix the draw in the following way. The teams that did the best at the last large international tournament get placed in the first pool (Germany, Netherlands, Spain, England), then the next best four teams (France, Portugal, Italy, Denmark) are the next group. If teams didn’t qualify for the previous large tournament than it should go by their ranking / if the host nation doesn’t qualify for pool 1 or 2 they end up in pool 3 (Poland, Sweden, Greece, Russia) and the remaining teams would be in pool 4 (Ireland, Croatia, Ukraine, Czech Republic).

The new Groups could potentially be:

  • Group A: Germany, France, Poland, Ireland
  • Group B: Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden, Croatia
  • Group C: Spain, Italy, Greece, Ukraine
  • Group D: England, Denmark, Russia, Czech Republic

I think this groups are much more even. The point of a tournament is for the best teams to have chances to play longer, which means that the best games should all happen after the group stages. As currently set up the Death Pool will have riveting games, but the two teams that come out of Group A will probably get steamrolled in the first round of the knockout stage.

How would you fix the draw?

J-Rodd: It is difficult to come up with a perfect method. Not placing the host nation/s in Pot 1 is the obvious thing that needs to be changed. If Ukraine and Poland were both in pot 4 as they should be, England and Germany would both be in pot 1 and automatically the groups would become more even. The problem is the only way that they can be decided is based on current Fifa ranking and previous Euro tournaments as even the World Cup must be dismissed as you could get knocked out at the group stage without even playing another Euro team. The other issue is the changing nature of a side. Spain are currently awesome but this could be Puyol and Xavi’s last tournament. England may not do that well this time but in 4 years time, Daniel Sturridge, Danny Welbeck, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling Jack Wilshire and Tom Cleverly may have become some of the best players in the world and England maybe awesome. They will still not be the top ranked team though.

For this tournament my pots would be.

  • Pot 1 - Spain, Germany, Netherlands, England
  • pot 2 - Portugal, France, Russia, Italy
  • Pot 3 - Denmark, Greece, Croatia, Sweden
  • Pot 4 - Czech Republic, Ireland, Poland Ukraine

Its the same problem with the Champions League. Man City went out having got 10 points in a very tough group. Apoel Nicosia got through top of their group by scoring 6 goals and obtaining 9 points. The ‘top’ team in their group was Porto who since last year has lost their manager and top goal scorer. Even Arsenal were ranked as a top side yet have not threatened to win the tournament in years and when the draw was made, had lost Fabregas and Nasri and not replaced them. Man City do not have Euro experience but have the most expensively assembled squad in Europe ever yet were put in pot 3. Common sense is needed but whatever way they organise it; there will be room for complaint.