The Latest: Wales is Slovakia’s headache at Euro 2016 draw
PARIS (AP) — The Latest from the draw for the European Championship next June (all times local):
Playing Russia is fine — but not Wales.
That was Slovakia coach Jan Kozak’s verdict of being drawn Saturday to play those teams — and England — in Group B at Euro 2016.
“I didn’t want Wales. They play as a team, always do their best and have players able to make the difference,” he said.
“Russia has an experienced team but it’s an acceptable opponent for us because it didn’t have stable form at the last major tournaments. We can play Russia,” he added.
England is clear favorite to top that group.
“A very attractive opponent,” Kozak said.
Slovakia will be playing at the tournament for the first time since the split of Czechoslovakia in 1993.
Talk about the luck of the Irish.
Drawn in Group E with Belgium, Italy and Sweden, Ireland’s chances of advancing to the Euro 2016 knockout rounds look slim.
“It couldn’t get tougher,” Ireland manager Martin O’Neill said. “Not easy. There’s no point me saying it is.”
Authorities in Bordeaux will be happy. The city known for its wine industry had been crossing fingers that Irish fans fond of a drink or three would end up there. Belgium vs. Ireland is in Bordeaux on June 18. Ireland opens against Sweden on June 13 at the Stade de France, and plays its last group game against Italy on June 22 in Lille.
“Sweden in the first game is something to look forward to, let’s go for it and leave nothing behind,” O’Neill said. “Now we know who we are up against, we can study players individually. It is a bit of a maze but we’ll get down to plotting something and hope these plans stay with us.”
England and Wales will meet for the first time at a major tournament after being drawn together in Group B to Chris Coleman’s dismay.
The Wales manager said England was “the one we said we didn’t really want.”
Wales is a first-timer at the tournament and Coleman relished seeing his team being mentioned in the same ceremony as giants of the game like Germany and Italy.
“It’s a great feeling. It really is,” Coleman said.
Russia and Slovakia are the other teams in the group.
“Russia and Slovakia will be interesting, I have not come across either of those two teams in my international management before,” England manager Roy Hodgson said. “There will be plenty of research between now and June and we can find out as much as we can before the campaign.”
Spain coach Vicente del Bosque says Turkey and Croatia are both sizeable hurdles in Group D.
“It’s going to be very difficult for us, very difficult,” he said after Saturday’s draw for the June 10-July 10 tournament.
Spain is the only team to have won the competition consecutively — in 2008 and 2012.
The 2010 World Cup champion plays its opening match against the Czech Republic on June 13 in Toulouse. It plays Turkey on June 17 in Nice and finishes group play against Croatia on June 21 in Bordeaux.
No fake modesty from Joachim Loew: Germany’s coach says his team is the favorite to top Group C.
The 2014 World Cup champions open against Ukraine on June 12 in Lille.
Poland, Germany’s next opponent, could be tricky. Robert Lewandowski was the top goalscorer in the Euro qualifiers, with 13 goals in 10 matches.
Germany vs. Poland is June 16 at the Stade de France, north of Paris.
“We know our opponents. Obviously we also respect our opponents,” Loew said. “We have a rather balanced group, which is feasible, and which we have to win.”
Northern Ireland will be Germany’s last group opponent, in Paris on June 21.
“It’s not the strongest line-up,” former Germany great Franz Beckenbauer said.
“There are trickier groups,” said Lothar Matthaeus, who captained West Germany to the World Cup title in 1990. “German football fans can look forward to the second round.”
The draw will bring back bad memories for Croatia, which has been placed in a tough Group D alongside defending champion Spain, Czech Republic and Turkey.
At Euro 2012 Spain qualified for the knockout phase with a 1-0 win over Croatia that sealed the fate of its opponents.
The Croats were also handed a shock loss by Turkey in the quarterfinals of Euro 2008 following a nerve-racking game and penalty shootout.
Vincent Kompany likes Belgium’s draw for the European Championships.
That’s despite Group E being arguably the toughest of the six groups to emerge from the Euro 2016 draw. With former winner Italy and Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s Sweden, the group could be a very open contest.
“A hard but great group for Belgium,” Kompany, the Belgium and Manchester City captain, tweeted. “The atmosphere in those games will be incredible.”
Italy and Belgium met in November for the first time since 2008, with the Belgians rallying to a 3-1 win in Brussels.
Republic of Ireland completes the group.
Defending champion Spain has been drawn in a potentially tricky group with Croatia, Turkey and the Czech Republic for the European Championship next June.
France will like its chances of getting out of Group A. After the opening match against Romania, the host nation will play Albania — in the tournament for the first time — and finally Switzerland on June 19.
World champion Germany has Ukraine and Poland, the co-hosts of Euro 2012, in its Group C. Tournament first-timer Northern Ireland completes that group.
Group E has top-ranked team Belgium, Italy, Ireland and Sweden.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal opens against Iceland on June 14, with Austria and Hungary also making up that Group F.
In Group B, England will first play Russia in Marseille on June 11. Wales and Slovakia round out that group.
The opening match of the European Championships next year will see host nation France play Romania.
They will meet June 10 at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, on the northern outskirts of Paris.
Also drawn in their Group A is Albania.
World champion Germany has a tough foe in Poland in Group C.
Wales’ first participation at the European Championships will see it play a familiar foe: England.
The two home nations have been drawn together in Group B.
They will play each other in Lens on June 16.
UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino has paid tribute to the victims of the Paris attacks in a short introductory speech, expressing the European governing body’s solidarity “with all those affected by the attacks of November 13” and what he called the “deeply tragic” events.
The elephant not in the room is Michel Platini. The UEFA president is fighting a ban from football that kept him out of the draw ceremony.
But the crowd applauded when footage was shown of Platini scoring in the 1984 tournament that France won on home soil.
The draw ceremony for the European Championships has kicked off in Paris with a musical journey through the culture of the host nation France.
Cancan dancers got the show rolling. They made way for other dancers wearing the flags of the 24 teams.
The high-energy show contrasted with the heavy security outside the draw venue, reinforced in the wake of the Nov. 13 terror attacks in Paris that killed 130 people.
Famed DJ David Guetta, who wrote the official Euro 2016 song, has just announced to the VIP crowd that he will host a big free concert in Paris before the tournament starts June 10.