Euro 2008: England handed lucky draw

January 27, 2006

England have been handed a favourable draw in their qualifying campaign for the 2008 European Championships in Switzerland and Austria.

GettyImages / MichaelSteeleEriksson: Pensive In Montreux

The quarter-finalists at the last tournament will face Croatia, Russia, Israel, Estonia, Macedonia and Andorra in Group E.

England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson attended the draw in Montreux, but the Swede will not be in charge for the campaign after announcing he will leave his post following the World Cup this summer.

• See the full draw here.

But the outgoing Swede said it was a good draw for his successor: 'I think England should be happy, there are groups much more difficult than England's.'

'It's difficult, for even the smaller football nations are becoming better, but I think who is coming after me will be happy with this draw,' Eriksson added.

Croatia, tipped to make an impact at the World Cup this summer, and Russia will be England's biggest threat to a top-two finish - with no qualification play-off system in this tournament.

Israel impressed in World Cup qualification but managed to finish only third in their group - in which they were ahead of the Republic of Ireland - despite being level on points with Switzerland.

Macedonia surprised England during the last qualifying campaign, earning an away draw at St Mary's before David Beckham scored the winner in the return match in Skopje.

Of the home nations, Scotland received the toughest draw and Walter Smith's side will face Italy, France and Ukraine along with Lithuania, Georgia and the Faroe Islands.

Former Scotland international Charlie Nicholas does not envy the task facing the Scotland boss. 'I think Walter will be on the phone to the Samaritans tonight,' Nicholas told Sky Sports News.

The Scots were defeated 5-0 by former World and European champions France in Berti Vogts' first game in charge in March 2002.

But, under Andy Roxburgh, the team claimed a 2-0 win over the French in the qualifiers for the 1990 World Cup, although Les Bleus also scored a three-goal triumph over the Scots in the same group.

Smith's first game in charge of the team was in Milan last March where a creditable display in the 2-0 defeat marked an upturn in Scotland's fortunes.

Scotland almost claimed a famous win over the Italians in September in the World Cup qualifiers where the visitors needed a late equaliser at Hampden Park.

Newly-appointed Republic of Ireland manager Steve Staunton will face Wales in a mouth-watering clash in Group D. Both teams are considered outsiders to reach the finals as Germany and the Czech Republic are also in their group. The other Group D teams are Slovakia, Cyprus and San Marino.

'It's obviously going to be tough but there were a couple of other draws that were harder,' Staunton told Sky Sports. 'From a travel point of view it's worked out well, we've missed some of the long trips.

'We have Wales on our doorstep also, Czech Republic are not going to be easy - they will be good competitive games.

'Two places are up for grabs, you don't have to qualify though the play-offs and I think everybody's happy with that.'

Wales boss John Toshack is happy with his team's draw and is looking forward in particular to facing Germany and the Republic of Ireland.

'The key for us is the availability of our best players,' he said.

'If we are able to have our better players there and our commitment is right then we are excited to think we can have a good run at this one.

Northern Ireland will meet Sweden, Spain, Denmark, Latvia, Iceland and Liechtenstein in Group F.