All eyes will be on Paris for Saturday’s Euro 2016 draw and after a premature exit at the last major tournament, England fans will be hoping for a kinder group this time around.
Three Lions enthusiasts need little reminding of failure to escape a group containing Italy, Uruguay and surprise packages Costa Rica at the 2014 World Cup, so the prospect of facing the Azzurri once more is a nerve-jangling one.
Even though Roy Hodgson’s fresh-looking England side created history in reaching the finals in flawless fashion, recording 10 consecutive qualifying wins, tournament underachievement has become so commonplace down the years that nothing will be taken for granted in France.
Still, there is plenty of optimism surrounding Hodgson’s side, as their 11/1 fifth favouritism with Ladbrokes indicates.
With the 24 teams divided into four pots, the Ladbrokes News team have done some research to map out what constitutes the best and worst groups England could find themselves in after Saturday’s draw.
The groups are selected based on past head-to-head meetings, with points-per-game settling any tiebreak situations.
Of the five teams waiting in Pot 2 (Italy, Switzerland, Russia, Austria and Croatia) it’s the Swiss that make the preferred opponents, having been comfortably beaten home and away during qualification.
Slovakia were thumped 4-0 in a Wembley friendly back in 2009 and lost home and away to the English in qualifying for Euro 2004.
Shock inclusions Albania cap off the ‘perfect’ scenario having collected 16 fewer points than England in qualification.
As mentioned above, Italy are the nation to be feared most in Pot 2, as their 2-1 opening win over England at the last World Cup highlights.
Romania have also been responsible for stamping on English tournament ambitions, helping to seal another early exit at Euro 2000 and it will surprise many to see the scales tipped in their favour in overall meetings.
As all the other home nations lurk in Pot 4, Ladbrokes make it an evens chance that England are thrown in with one of them.
Of the trio, it is Martin O’Neill’s men whom Hodgson’s side have most to fear by our reckoning.
Draws have been the prevalent results between the two nations down the years, but that could be pivotal in the nip and tuck environment of the group stages.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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