Predictions are here.
So, the draw for the qualifying for Euro 2008 took place today. The host nations qualify automatically (Switzerland and a very lucky Austria) and the top two from each group also qualify - there are no play-offs this time round. The draw in full:
Portugal, Poland, Serbia and Montenegro, Belgium, Finland, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan
Not one for the faint hearted, with three away trips to former Russian republics for the likes of Portugal and Belgium. If Serbia continue with their World Cup qualifying form, they could cause some problems in this group. I also don't fancy Portugal much on a bumpy pitch in stormy Baku, so this could be more open than it looks.
Picks: Serbia and Portugal (just)
France, Italy, Ukraine, Scotland, Lithuania, Georgia, Faroe Islands
Well, this was Scotland's worst nightmare. They were facing an uphill struggle anyway, but their chances are pretty much dead and buried by landing not only France and Italy but also the Ukraine. Expect them to lose to Lithuania or the Faroes but beat France or Italy along the way. I like Ukraine - they are one of my each way bets for this summers World Cup but it is hard to look past the "big" two, even though I think France are increasingly vulnerable.
Picks: France and Italy
Greece, Turkey, Norway, Bosnia, Hungary, Moldova, Malta
Even though they won the last tournament, Greece seem oddly highly seeded and have shown no form since their unexpected triumph in Lisbon. It's an interesting group this as even the Moldovan's can give a decent side a game and Hungary have shown signs of improvement of late.
Picks: Turkey and Norway
Czech Republic, Germany, Slovakia, Rep. Ireland, Wales, Cyprus, San Marino
Well, the "home" nations will feel that they have a chance in this group. The Czech's are invariably strong, but Germany's problems are well documented and Slovakia punched above their weight in reaching the World Cup qualifying play-offs. Cyprus and San Marino should cause no problems, and so this could prove to be one of the more open groups. Unfortunately, I think Welsh in-fighting and an increasingly weak looking Ireland squad will mean disappointment for both.
Picks : Czech Republic and Germany
England, Croatia, Russia, Israel, Macedonia, Estonia, Andorra
Well, could England have landed any more comfortable a group? No long away trips to ex Russian republics, no home nations and none of the big name second seeds. Croatia are a decent side but would expect to be beaten, and beyond that England (the best team in Europe currently?) should comfortably qualify. On paper you'd have to go for Croatia or Russia, but there is often a surprise qualifier. If their Premiership based players perform consistently, it could be the least European nation in the draw that makes it to Switzerland.
Picks: England and Israel
Sweden, Spain, Denmark, Latvia, Northern Ireland, Iceland, Liechtenstein
Again, an interesting group. The top four seeds will all fancy their chances here, with Sweden and Spain early favourites for the tournament itself, Denmark winners in 1992 and Latvia qualifying in 2004. I think Northern Ireland will struggle against all four of those sides, and I think it will be a fight between the Scandinavian nations for the second qualifying spot.
Picks: Sweden and Spain
Holland, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Albania, Belarus, Luxembourg
Well, the second place here is anyones guess. I expect Holland to qualify comfortably, but then it is a good scrap for the other place. Romania and Bulgaria are solid sides if unlikely to trouble Europe's top teams, whilst little Slovenia have put together some decent sides over the last 10 years. Albania are one of the most improved nations in Europe also. I think this is another group where we might see a surprise qualifier.
Picks: Holland and Slovenia
Anyone fly low cost to Skopje?.....