Manuel Veth –
Russia dealt the world a stunning World Cup tournament last year, and in less than a year, Saint Petersburg will lay host to another in the form of Euro 2020.
The city will welcome four games across the tournament as the competition goes cross-continental with 12 separate host nations.
Saint Petersburg will join Copenhagen in hosting Group B in what will ultimately be a game of pot luck as to how far nations will have to travel from their home during the draw.
Michel Platini has come under intense scrutiny for essentially turning the draw into a game of bingo, although in fact, you’ll find plenty more fun in bingo games than you will the state of UEFA at this current time.
As balls will be drawn out of the pot on November 30, it’s going to make for complex viewing. Rather than a ball being pulled, called and placed into a group, there are all manner of scenarios which could cause problems.
How complex that will be will depend on the nations that have qualified. Currently, no countries have qualified for the tournament, although some sides are in a good position to do so over the next few qualifiers.
Of those, many are host nations. Within the new format of Euro 2020, all qualified host nations will be drawn into the group that they are hosting.
Therefore should Russia qualify they will be placed into Group B, alongside Denmark should they also make the cut — the Danes would be hosting some of their games in Copenhagen in what can be described a Baltic cluster. It would give St. Petersburg another opportunity to host the Russian national team at a major tournament in what is one of the most stunning facilities in Europe.
What this also means is that Italy will likely end up in Group A, opening the tournament up, the Netherlands, and potentially Romania in Group C and England in D with a feisty tie against Scotland possibly on the cards.
Spain and Ireland may be two side making up Group E and Germany and Hungary in Group F. Not exactly the random draws we’re used to from previous tournaments
How this is going to affect the tournament, it’s unsure. The festival atmosphere of Russia 2018 most certainly won’t be replicated though with, in theory, two teams and sets of fans from each group able to stay at home and the other two nations potentially having to travel thousands upon thousands of miles to see their team. If anything, it could cause tension.
Early Favourites For The Tournament
Still, it’s a major tournament, and there’s already been plenty of excitement in qualifying, and in the new created UEFA Nations League.
But what are the Sbornaya’s chances of actually qualifying and given an opportunity to once again excite the crowds at the St. Petersburg based Gazprom Arena.
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Russia are well placed on nine points to qualify alongside Belgium in the group, with the latter among the favourites for the tournament. Aside from Belgium the group includes Kazakhstan, Scotland and San Marino, all three are manageable opponents, which makes the Sbornaya a good bet to qualify.
France are of course most people’s top picks after their dominant display in Russia last year, while many will expect the Germans and Spanish to return strongly following a tough tournament.
The early signs are though that anything can happen. Chaos will ensue as soon as the qualification process has been completed in what could be the tournament that grabs little attention in an anniversary year which should be celebrated.
Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and among others contributes to Forbes.com and Pro Soccer USA. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which is available HERE. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.