Reigning champions Italy were drawn against England, the team they beat in last year’s final, in qualifiers for Euro 2024 on Sunday. Euro 2024, hosted by Germany, will be Italy’s chance to regain some pride after failing to qualify for the World Cup finals, which begin in Qatar in six weeks. Italy beat hosts England on penalties in last year’s Covid-delayed Euro 2020 final at Wembley after the game ended 1-1 after extra time.
Italy have made it into the bottom four of the Nations League and sent England into League B, resulting in the two countries being drawn in Euro 2024 qualifying Group C alongside Ukraine, North Macedonia and Malta.
England’s relegation put them in Pot 2 for the Frankfurt draw, while Italy were among the top seeds to qualify for the tournament.
Italy manager Roberto Mancini said: “I knew we were going to get either England or France, but that’s fine.
Italy will be wary of facing North Macedonia, the Balkan nation that knocked them out of the World Cup in the play-offs in Palermo in March.
“It’s one of those games that you get every now and then and as we saw in Palermo we have to take every game seriously, even the seemingly simple ones,” Mancini told RAI Sport.
England manager Gareth Southgate told the BBC: “It’s ironic when you’ve had a game like we had and then played it again so recently that you seem to have something like that.”
“A Killer in the Box”
France, who will be looking to retain the World Cup in Qatar, meet the Netherlands, Republic of Ireland, Greece and Gibraltar in Group B.
The French have bad memories of beating the Irish, who they only managed to beat to reach the finals of the 2010 World Cup thanks to what appeared to be a clear handball from Thierry Henry.
“It’s a pretty important group, a group with value,” said France coach Didier Deschamps.
Spain’s Group A opponents include Scotland and Norway, led by prolific Manchester City striker Erling Haaland.
Spanish Football Federation president Luis Rubiales said: “He’s incredible, a killer in the penalty area, a reference point in world football. It’s very good to compete against these kind of players. But Norway isn’t just Haaland.”
Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo, who will be 39 when the finals kick off, play in Group J with Bosnia-Herzegovina and Iceland.
Croatia, defeated 2018 World Cup finalists, were placed in Group D with World Cup qualifiers Wales and Turkey.
Denmark, another team going to Qatar, has Finland, Slovenia and Northern Ireland among their Group H opponents.
Russia is excluded from the competition because of the invasion of Ukraine.
As the host, the three-time European champion Germany is automatically qualified.
The Euro 2024 finals will be played in 10 German cities from 14 June to 14 July as the tournament returns to a single host country following the multi-country format used for Euro 2020.
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