Reigning champions Italy were drawn on Sunday to face England, the team they beat in the final last year, in qualifying for the 2024 European Championship. Euro 2024, hosted by Germany, will be Italy’s chance to regain some pride after they failed to qualify for the World Cup finals which kick off in Qatar in six weeks’ time. Italy beat host nation England in a penalty shootout in the Covid-delayed Euro 2020 final at Wembley last year after the match ended 1-1 following extra time.
Italy have made it through to the final four of the Nations League and sent England down to League B, which led to the two countries being drawn in the Euro 2024 qualifying Group C alongside Ukraine, North Macedonia and Malta.
England’s relegation put them in Pot 2 for the draw in Frankfurt while Italy were among the top seeds for qualifying for the tournament.
Italy coach Roberto Mancini said: “I knew that we’d get either England or France, but that’s OK. It’s a decent five-team group, no easy matches, all ones we can have a go at.”
Italy will be wary of facing North Macedonia, the Balkan nation which knocked them out of the World Cup in the playoffs in Palermo in March.
“It’s one of those matches that you get every now and again, and as we saw in Palermo we have to take every match seriously, even those that seem the simplest,” Mancini told RAI Sport.
England coach Gareth Southgate told the BBC: “It’s ironic when you’ve had a fixture like we’ve had and then played them again already so recently that you seem to have these sort of things.”
– ‘A killer in the box’ –
France, who will attempt to retain the World Cup in Qatar, will play the Netherlands, the Republic of Ireland, Greece and Gibraltar in Group B.
The French have bad memories of playing the Irish, who they only beat to reach the 2010 World Cup finals thanks to what appeared to be a clear handball by Thierry Henry.
“It’s a pretty weighty group, a group with value,” France coach Didier Deschamps said.
Spain’s opponents in Group A will include Scotland and Norway, who will be spearheaded by prolific Manchester City forward Erling Haaland.
The Spanish football federation’s president Luis Rubiales said: “He’s incredible, a killer in the box, a reference point in world football. It’s very good to face these type of players. But Norway is not just Haaland.”
Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo, who will be 39 by the time the finals kick off, are in a Group J that includes Bosnia-Herzegovina and Iceland.
Croatia, the losing World Cup finalists in 2018, were placed in Group D with World Cup qualifiers Wales as well as Turkey.
Denmark, another team going to Qatar, have Finland, Slovenia and Northern Ireland among their opponents in Group H.
Russia are excluded from the competition because of the invasion of Ukraine.
As hosts, three-time European champions Germany qualify automatically.
The Euro 2024 finals will be played in 10 German cities from June 14 to July 14 as the tournament returns to a single host country following the multi-country format used for Euro 2020.
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