The draw for Euro 2024 has been made and England is in a group with Italy, Ukraine, North Macedonia and Malta. Facing Gli Azzurri once more will be the biggest challenge.
Reflecting on the group to Sky Sports, Gareth Southgate said, “It’s clearly a tough draw, given the quality of the opposition, and we’ve had draws in qualification that have probably been a little bit more comfortable than that.”
So you would expect the Three Lions and the Italians to finish in the automatic qualifying spots in Group C. However, Italy has not qualified for the last two World Cups so it may not be as straightforward. The teams in the group might be able to cause some upsets.
Italy cannot miss back-to-back major tournaments
Italy broke England’s hearts when they defeated Southgate’s side on penalties in the final of Euro 2020. Their recent meetings with Roberto Mancini’s side in the Nations League this year have not gone well either with results of 0-0 at Molineux and a 1-0 defeat at the San Siro.
Southgate said to the BBC about the fixture, “it’s ironic when you’ve had a fixture like we’ve had and then played them again so recently that you seem to have these sort of things.
“We seemed to be playing Croatia every five minutes not so long ago and now it seems we have got that situation with Italy.”
This is a chance for England to slay some demons from their recent past. Mancini’s side will not be taking any games lightly as they will be desperate to qualify and defend their title after missing out on the World Cup this year.
Euro 2024 is being hosted by Germany. That marks the first major tournament they will be hosting since the World Cup in 2006. That year the Italians lifted the trophy, beating France on penalties in the final.
Ukraine qualifying for Euro 2024 would be great for national morale
Ukraine is a tragically war-torn country at the moment and after missing out on qualifying for the World Cup after losing to Wales in the playoffs it would be massive for their country to get to a major tournament.
England’s last meeting with the Ukrainians came in the quarter-final of Euro 2020. That result saw Southgate’s side go through, winning 4-0.
They do have quality players known to English fans in Andriy Yarmolenko, Oleksandr Zinchenko and Vitalii Mykolenko. The footballing world will be all wishing Ukraine to qualify.
Could North Macedonia make it to their second major tournament?
North Macedonia made it to their first major tournament at Euro 2020. They did not make it out of their group, but fans will remember the emotional scenes as their legendary player Goran Pandev retired from international football.
They came close to making it to the World Cup in Qatar, losing to Portugal in their play-off final. During the qualifying campaign, they defeated Italy 1-0 which cost Mancini’s men a place at the World Cup. They will certainly be out to cause more upsets.
Can Malta make it to their first major tournament?
Malta has never made a major tournament. With their current FIFA ranking of 166, the odds are stacked against them.
England met Malta in the qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup where the Three Lions won 4-0 and 2-0.
There is still a long way to go
The qualifying groups do not start until March, after the World Cup later this year. Southgate is contracted to be England’s manager until the end of 2024. However, he has received much criticism following their relegation from Group A of the Nations League. If the tournament does not go well in Qatar, it may be his final tournament as England boss.
England fans have come so close during the last two major tournaments. Pressure is on the side to deliver in the upcoming World Cup and European Championship.