Portugal’s first game on 16 June will be against the play-off winners in Budapest. So how can UEFA justify organising a draw that results in three of Europe’s top six teams ending up in the same group? On top of that, the winner of England’s group will play one of those sides in Dublin in the last sixteen, meaning there may be an incentive to finish second. There is also the ludicrous situation that the four remaining teams will not be known until March, barely two months before the tournament starts. That does not leave a lot of time for logistics, especially for supporters.
They are unintentionally going to leave an unconscionable carbon footprint traipsing across Europe, at a time when global awareness of this environmental crisis has never been greater. This will be most felt by Welsh fans, who have to travel from one end of the continent to the other for two matches in the Azerbaijani capital of Baku. Portugal’s second game is against Germany in Munich on 20 June and four days later they meet France in Budapest. It may not be necessary to finish in the top two places in the section to progress to the knockout phase of the competition as the four best third-placed teams from the six groups will also qualify for the next round.
“It’s a group with the three winners of the last three major tournaments,” commented Portugal coach Fernando Santos. “It will be a strong group with two favourites and one contender. We could also have a repeat of our first game of 2016, if Iceland win through the play-offs. But we believe in our possibilities and we believe we can win.”
The tournament will be the first European Championships to be played across the entire breadth of the continent, using twelve different venues from Dublin to Baku, beginning on Friday, 12 June in Rome and culminating on Sunday, 12 July in London. Chris Wright