England will discover their fate on Saturday as to who they will play in the group stage at the European Championship next summer.
Time has flown by since the Three Lions’ painful penalty shoot-out defeat in the final of Euro 2020 to Italy at Wembley Stadium, and on July 14, 2024, Gareth Southgate’s squad will again hope to be playing in the final and deliver the first major trophy for the men’s side since the 1966 World Cup.
The Lionesses got the job done in the summer of 2022, and Southgate’s side will be hoping to match their efforts, though the usual suspects including France, Germany, Portugal, Spain and Italy will be standing in their way.
While Euro 2020 was played across Europe, next summer’s tournament will return to some normality as all 51 games will be played in Germany.
So, with the group stage draw coming up, Mail Sport has compiled this guide for everything you need to know.
Italy go into next summer’s tournament as defending champions after beating England in the final of Euro 2020 – which had been delayed until 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic
England’s men side will hope to go one better after their heartbreaking penalty shootout loss
Who England can play?
To answer this question, we will start with who they can’t play, and the good news is that the Three Lions will avoid some of the pre-tournament favourites.
Next summer’s competition will consist of 24 nations, who have been split into four pots of six teams – with their placing determined by their ranking in the Euro 2024 qualifiers.
England are in Pot 1, which means they will avoid hosts Germany (who automatically qualified), France, Portugal, Spain and Belgium.
Every other nation who has qualified for next summer’s competition, England could play in the group stage. They will be drawn alongside one side from each of the other three pots.
That means they could face a rematch with Italy, who since the final loss they defeated twice in the qualifiers to make next summer’s competition.
There are a number of interesting challenges in Pot 3 including a tricky Netherlands side, Croatia – who beat England in the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup – and a possible Battle of Britain against Scotland.
Pot 2 consists of Hungary, Turkey, Romania, Denmark, Albania and Austria. While none of those teams should pose England a problem on paper there are some who could prove to be wildcards in Germany.
Hungary beat England twice in Euro 2022 in the UEFA Nations League, while Denmark are another side to watch with a host of recognisable names including Man United pair Rasmus Hojlund and Christian Eriksen.
England could face Italy again with the Euro 2020 winners among the lowest seeded teams
England could also face Scotland who they recently beat in a 150th anniversary heritage game
It could be an emotional return to the Euros for Eriksen, who suffered a cardiac arrest on-field the last time the competition was held. The 31-year-old said he was ‘technically dead’ for three to four minutes and underwent CPR on the pitch. Today he plays with a ICD (Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator) fitted.
Alongside the Netherlands, Scotland and Croatia in Pot 3 are Slovenia, Slovakia and Czech Republic.
Italy are remarkably are among the lowest seeded teams in the competition in Pot 4 alongside Serbia and Switzerland.
There are three spots still to be determined in Pot 4, with play-offs to be held in March to decide who are the final nations to qualify for Euro 2024.
Wales are among those nations who have to battle it out in the play-offs, and should they do so, there is a chance there could be a mouth-watering group including them, England and Scotland.
Euro 2024 could see an emotional return to the tournament for Christian Eriksen (right)
The Manchester United star suffered a cardiac arrest on the pitch during Euro 2020
What’s the best case scenario for England?
England, Albania, Slovenia and winner of Path C
The Three Lions would be counting their lucky stars if this was the group they ended up with next summer.
Albania to their credit won their group ahead of Czech Republic and Poland, while Slovenia finished second, albeit level on points with group winners Denmark.
While both sides had a good qualifying campaign, they have both played and lost to England six times in their history.
Play-off C meanwhile looks like it would present the best draw on paper from Group D.
It would be an incredible feat for Georgia, Luxembourg or Kazakhstan to make the tournament, as not one of the three have qualified for either the World Cup or European Championship. Greece won the tournament in its biggest ever shock in 2004 but would also be a good draw for the Three Lions.
However, that final choice could change if Estonia produced a miracle and reached the Euros.
Estonia have made the play-offs despite taking just one point from their qualifying group, failing to win a match and would need to likely beat Poland and Wales to make the competition.
How they made the play-offs? By finishing top of League D in the Nations League – which consisted of other footballing minnows including San Marino, Andorra, Moldova and Latvia.
…and the worst?
England, Hungary, Netherlands and Italy
This would be the ‘Group of Death’ for England and one they would like to avoid – even though there should be confidence that they will qualify.
Hungary are the easiest of the trio on paper, but have been a thorn in England’s side in the past, beating them twice in the space of 10 days in 2022 – including a 4-0 victory at Wembley.
While there are not many players casuals will be familiar with, Liverpool’s Dominik Szoboszlai is their leading light and a player who has made an instant impact in the Premier League since his £60m move from German side RB Leipzig in the summer.
Liverpool’s Dominik Szoboszlai caused England problems when Hungary beat them twice in the space of ten days last year – including a famous 4-0 victory at Wembley
The Netherlands pose a threat if they are the team from Pot C that England are drawn with
The Netherlands also have a couple of Liverpool players England should be wary of in Virgil van Dijk, widely regarded as one of the best defenders in the world, and Cody Gakpo.
Other familiar faces include Man City’s Nathan Ake, Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong and Bayern Munich defender Matthijs de Ligt.
Italy don’t carry the same level of threat that they did at Euro 2020, having failed to qualify for the World Cup, and barely scraping through qualifying where they lost twice to England and were fortunate to advance over Ukraine – who were denied what looked a clear penalty in the final game which could have send the Italians to the play-offs.
But they have plenty of tournament experience and were not seen as one of the favourites for Euro 2020 before they proved viewers wrong.
Italy are not the team they were at Euro 2020, but have plenty of experience in competitions
Who are the tournament favourites?
England are one of the strong candidates to win next summer’s tournament.
The Three Lions have come so close to ending their trophy hoodoo during the Gareth Southgate era, reaching a World Cup quarter-final (2022) and semi-final (2019), a Euros final (2021) – but no tournament victory.
They will have one of the strongest squads at next summer’s competition and the two stars to watch out for don’t play in the Premier League.
Harry Kane has been scoring goals for fun since joining Bayern Munich which has come to many as no surprise. But 20-year-old Jude Bellingham’s form since joining Real Madrid has been beyond all expectations.
Former Tottenham striker Kane has scored 22 goals in 17 games, while Bellingham has 14 in 15 for the Spanish giants. If England are to succeed next summer, keeping both of them fit will be vitally important.
England’s hopes could rely on keeping Jude Bellingham (left) and Harry Kane (right) fit
France will be a threat with Kylian Mbappe expected to be the star player of the tournament
The big favourites will be France who came agonisingly close to retaining the World Cup in Qatar. Kylian Mbappe netted a hat-trick but it wasn’t enough to stop Lionel Messi and Argentina.
Mbappe is a man for the big occasion and it will be tough for any nation to stop him and France next summer.
The form team going into Germany as things stand is Portugal, who were the only team to win all of their games during qualifying. They look rejuvenated under former Belgium and Everton boss Roberto Martinez.
Cristiano Ronaldo was dropped to the bench at last year’s World Cup under their former manager and it appeared that his legendary international career was on the downward turn.
However, the 38-year-old who plays in Saudi Arabia has returned to form under Martinez, scoring seven goals in nine games during the qualifiers.
With a supporting cast including Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandes, Man City duo Bernardo Silva and Ruben Dias, and Liverpool’s Diogo Jota, they will have one of the strongest attacking teams in next summer’s competition.
Cristiano Ronaldo has returned to form with Portugal after his World Cup disappointment
Germany’s new boss Julian Nagelsmann (left) has a big job to turn around their woeful form
Other Pot 1 teams Germany, Spain and Belgium will also hope to be in contention.
Hosts Germany though have won just three out of 11 games this summer, and like Italy, will need a drastic upturn in form to get themselves into contention next summer.
Belgium no longer have Eden Hazard, and though they have Kevin de Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku, they have an aging squad who appear to have missed their opportunity with their ‘golden generation’ of players.
Spain are going through somewhat of a transitional period with a number of youngsters coming into the side, though the series injury sustained by Barcelona wonderkid Gavi could dent their hopes.
When and where is the draw?
The draw ceremony for the Euro 2024 group takes place on Saturday, December 2 from 5pm (6pm local time) in Hamburg, Germany. It will be streamed live on ITVX, BBC online and UEFA’s official website, YouTube channel and the UEFA Euro 2024 app worldwide.
How does the draw work?
Teams have been allocated to one of four pots (1, 2, 3, 4) in advance of the draw, in accordance with their results in the qualifying group stage.
Hosts Germany are seeded in Pot 1 but are not drawn as they are automatically allocated to Group A and will play the first game of the tournament regardless of who they are matched against. The three eventual play-off winners have been assigned to Pot 4.
There are six teams in each pot and other than Germany they will be drawn in groups A-F. Groups A-F also contain four balls each to represent the the positions available in each group (eg B1, B2, B3 and B4). This will determine what order teams in those groups play each other.
Two teams will qualify from each group along with four best third-placed finishers, before the tournament reaches the knock-out phase.
The draw for Euro 2024 takes place on Saturday at 5pm and will be held in Hamburg, Germany
Where will England be playing?
This will depend on what group England are placed into, though there have been 10 venues selected for the tournament – nine of which were also used for the 2006 World Cup.
The 10 stadiums are based in Berlin, Dortmund, Munich, Cologne, Stuttgart, Hamburg, Leipzig, Frankfurt, Gelsenkirchen and Dusseldorf.
Should England reach the semi-finals, they will play in either Munich or Dortmund, while the final on July 14 will be held at the Olympiastadion in Berlin.