England will face a tough task regardless of who they are pitted against in Friday’s Euro 2012 draw, according to former international Gareth Southgate.
Fabio Capello’s team are in the second pot for the draw in Kiev, meaning Spain, Portugal and France could all be placed in their group.
Southgate, who has been working as the Football Association's head of elite development since January, believes the tournament is as difficult to win as the World Cup, despite there being half the teams and fewer matches.
“When you’re looking ahead to this kind of draw your only aim is to avoid a ‘Group of Death’ scenario,” Southgate exclusively told FourFourTwo.com.
“We know England will face either one of the two host nations or one of the teams who reached the World Cup final, and there’s no easy option there.
“We’ve seen how much a team can benefit from playing a tournament at home, so you can be sure that facing Ukraine or Poland would be very tricky, but of course, that’s not to say Spain and Holland wouldn’t also be very tough.
“I don’t think you could look at any of the teams and say it’d be a walkover. The quality of the teams in the tournament - in all four pots - is very high. For that reason, although there’s one less round than the World Cup, the European Championships are just as difficult to win.”
Southgate, himself capped 57 times by England at senior level and a member of the squads that competed in Euro 96 and Euro 2000, also underlined the importance of getting off to a steady start in the group stages.
The former Middlesbrough manager believes England’s recent friendly matches against fellow Euro 2012 qualifiers Spain and Sweden will stand the team in good stead come the start of next summer’s competition.
“The first game of any tournament is important. Although if you do drop points there’s still time to recover, as a team you really need to get up to speed quickly, and you need to be ready to face the top sides.
“That’s why the friendly matches against sides like Spain will prove invaluable. It’s very hard to say where the results and performances from the friendlies will leave you at the tournament itself, but it’s certainly a great experience for the young players, and they will take lots of confidence from the recent matches.
“We now know that, on a one-off, there’s a possibility we can beat a side like Spain, although that’s not to say we’re necessarily performing at their level.”
England’s 1-0 victory over world and European champions Spain at Wembley last month was met with great surprise, but Southgate has praised the public and press for not reading too much into the result.
“I felt there was a really balanced reaction after the Spain game. Nobody got carried away, people were pleased that we had won but there was still recognition that there’s still a lot of work to do, both with regards to the current side and also the longer-term future of our game.
“There’s a big difference between how you approach a game when you’ve got to get a result with the senior side and how you want to develop players long term for the future.
“In a one-off match, if you’re facing Spain or Barcelona, it will be impossible to outplay them and out-pass them, so you need to adopt a different game plan. I think the coach and the players carried that out really well on the night.”
Gareth Southgate was speaking on behalf of Carlsberg, The Official Beer of The England Team. Carlsberg will be giving away tickets to Euro 2012 throughout the season. Keep checking Facebook.com/CarlsbergForEngland for your chance to watch England in next summer’s EURO 2012™ Championships.
By James Mawcomments