Why England Winning Group D Could Be A Disaster For Gareth Southgate’s Team
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England finishing top of Group D at Euro 2020 could turn out to be an absolute disaster for Gareth Southgate's side - due to the deadly last-16 tie it would leave them facing.
The Three Lions could feel relatively happy with their initial group draw, containing Croatia, Czech Republic and Scotland. The World Cup runners-up and an all-British clash means it's far from an easy group - but it's one England are the current favourites to win.
The problem is, that would almost certainly lead to England facing off against one of Europe's elite in the first knockout round.
The only problem is: the winner of England's group faces the runners-up of Group F.
So, unless Hungary pull off several shocks, that almost certainly means England facing France, Germany or Portugal in the last 16. Ouch.
Should England come second in the group, however, they will face the runners-up of Group E (Spain, Sweden, Poland, Slovakia). If a Spain win the group, as most expect despite their struggles with positive Covid tests, that means England would face one of the other three in a last-16 game.
And with all due respect to Sweden/Poland/Slovakia, that's a lot less intimidating than France/Germany/Portugal.
Of course, many will point out that England have failed to even qualify from their group in major tournaments, so worrying about who finishes where in the group at this stage is ridiculously premature. But this thinking has proved right before.
In the last World Cup, no less, when England faced Belgium in their final group game with both sides already qualified. Many football fans whispered that actually losing, and finishing second in the group, meant an easier path in the knockout stage.
England lost the match and both side made it to the semi-finals before exiting. But England's knockout path of Colombia, Sweden and Croatia was definitely easier - on paper - than Belgium's route of Japan, Brazil and France.
However at least then Belgium did get the reward of what appeared a slightly easier last-16 game (Japan rather than Group H winners Colombia).
In Euro 2020, the Group D winners - whoever that nation might be - will almost certainly face a far tougher challenge than the team who finish second.
So basically, Gareth: it's definitely coming home. But only if you finish second first. Got it?
Image credit: PA Images