12 things you need to know following the Euro 2016 draw
So you know how the draw panned out: England and Wales were paired up, with Russia and Slovakia making up Group B, while Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland face tough tasks ahead to qualify.
From dream draws to nightmare journeys, getting to the final to getting out of work, FFT has everything you need to know here...
— UEFA EURO 2016 (@UEFAEURO) December 12, 2015
1. The seeding was done using UEFA’s system, not FIFA rankings
If you’re looking at the FIFA rankings and feeling puzzled as to how high-flying Wales drew England, remember the European Championship is UEFA’s baby, not FIFA’s. UEFA’s coefficient system differs from FIFA’s in ways too tedious to explain here - essentially it takes a longer-term view.
Wales, their best results having come in the past couple of years, would’ve been alongside Italy & Co. in Pot 2 of the draw if Blatter’s short-termist mob was in charge, but they’re not so they’re not. It’s a similar scenario for Romania and Turkey, but Russia, Ukraine, Poland and Sweden are all big fans of UEFA’s method.
2. France have it easy
This is where we get to the mendacious minutiae of Euro 2016’s schedule. The 24-team format precludes balance – one team will automatically have an advantage. Coincidentally, it’s France.
Two unlucky group winners, those in Groups E and F, will face the runners-up of another group. The other four atop their particular pile get one of the ‘best’ third-placed teams – i.e. the least worst teams that would’ve been knocked out.
France would have that pleasure, in the tradition of hosts having gentle draws, but not only that: in the quarter-finals they’d play the winner of two second-placed teams. They won’t face a group winner until the semis. That’s if they top Group A. Finish second and... they’ll face another runner-up in the last 16. Handy!
3. Don’t even try to work out who your team might face if they finish third
Here, look at this table (credit: UEFA.com).
4. Northern Ireland fan? Dust off the A to Z!
C4 is designated to one team whose fans will see two very different sides of France, tripping lazily between group games from the Côte d’Azur to Paris via Lyon
Northern Ireland, by being drawn in slot C4 in the schedule, will get to see two very different sides of France, tripping lazily between group games from the Côte d’Azur to Paris, via Lyon. Austrian fans who like their wine will be happy to know they'll be hitting Bordeaux before a Paris double-header.
5. Germany have a plum draw
Group C places the world champions in Lille - not too far to travel for their fans - before a stroll to Paris for the glorious Stade de France and Parc des Princes just down the road. Come top and it’s back to Lille for the last 16. Tickets for thei fans should be plentiful, too, as they’re all big grounds.
6. France vs Romania to begin
Romania get a spectacular opening ceremony and two games in Paris. Meanwhile, all of Switzerland's group matches will be in the north of France.
7. Group D really is the worst for match-going fans
Bafflingly, Group D’s seeds, Spain, will have the fewest tickets to give their fans of any nation at the Euros, playing in grounds with a smaller combined capacity than those hosting any other team in the group stage.
Not that there’s anything wrong with the stadiums in Toulouse, Nice and Bordeaux – the last two are new – but as three of Euro 2016’s smallest grounds they provide fewer match-going opportunities for fans of European football’s top nations. Bit of a schlep, too.
Group D will play out in Euro 2016’s six smallest stadia so fewer tickets on sale for these games.
8. Group D does have its rewards, Spain
Remember how France might not have to face a group winner until the final four? It’s the same in D. Win the group and it’s la vie en rose. Don’t, and it’s merde.
9. Two teams can have a short holiday between rounds
Each side should have sufficient downtime, but those progressing from Group F will have the least
How much rest is too much rest? Group A’s winners (France?) and Group B’s runners-up (England? Wales?) might ponder that in the week’s wait for their last 16 match. Can a team’s momentum survive its squad taking a city break between games?
Each side should have sufficient downtime, but those progressing from Group F will have the least. Still, they’ll be in a good position to rest players...
10. The group stage could tail off
By the time sides in Groups E and F start their final games, they’ll know what is required to be the ‘best’ third-placed team. Those in Group E will even know which result will bring which next-round opponent.
The downside is that winning Group E is ‘rewarded’ with a last 16 tie against a runner-up, not one of those losers limping in third, and finishing second means you face a group winner, not a fellow sloppy second. Teams in Group E are 28% less likely to win Euro 2016 than those in Group A, according to one set of simulations – but then simulation is a blight on modern football that needs to be eradicated.
11. There’s no point in winning Group F
Still, topping your group is always best, right? Not in Group F, whose top two will each face a group runner-up. Given they’ll know who one of those potential opponents will be and who the other is likely to be, there might not be much incentive to win that last game to come first. Finishing second guarantees an extra day’s recovery. Don’t be surprised if you see teams resting players in what’s meant to be a crucial clash.
12. Accommodation: bad news for England fans
TripAdvisor have calculated that England fans can expect to spend £835 on accommodation in order to follow their team in the early stage matches – almost double the average costs facing Welsh fans.
They told FFT that based on the average rates available to book on TripAdvisor for one night, stays in Marseille, Lens and Saint Etienne during the dates when England will play there, the total accommodation cost for fans is revealed to be £835.
Welsh fans face a comparably cheaper trip, with an average total cost of just £425 for their three initial destinations - Bordeaux, Lens and Toulouse – making theirs the lowest average bill of all 24 nations.
Northern Irish fans, meanwhile, planning trips to Nice, Lyon and Paris can expect to spend £602 on one night hotel stays, while the equivalent cost for Republic of Ireland fans averages a similar €839 (£604) for their stays in Saint Denis, Bordeaux and Lille.
If England fans need to choose one destination to visit, rather than all three, the best value accommodation options can be found in Lens which will host England on June 16, where the average hotel rate comes in at £133, a saving of over £340 compared to the average cost of staying in Saint-Etienne on June 20.