Even though the World Cup still seems far away, the draw to qualify for Euro 2012 has already taken place. Sorry for the delay in reporting and general neglect on this blog recently. I’ve been incredibly busy at work and I contribute to two other Offside blogs (Marseille and Ligue 1 – check them out!). Thanks to Jeff for filling us in on some of the Viera updates- it is hard not to love a player who just won’t go away.
Now, back to Euro 2012….
For the draw (which took place earlier this month), France was placed in Pot 1 as the 7th seed with its fellow top 9 European teams (Spain, Germany, Netherlands, Italy, England, Croatia, Portugal and Russia). As a reminder (as if we needed one), there was much discussion over which pot France would be drawn from during the World Cup draw. France was eventually placed in Pot 2 since their World Cup play-off game against Ireland occurred after the cut-off date. Fortunately, France didn’t provide any new controversy for the media to focus on for this draw- but a few other countries helped provide some scandal for the media to focus on. Before the draw, UEFA confirmed that for “political reasons” (mostly territorial disputes) Armenia could not be drawn against Azerbaijan and Russia could not be drawn into the same group as Georgia. Historically, these teams have refused to hold matches against each other. So, when Armenia and Azerbaijan were actually both drawn into group A- UEFA moved Azerbaijan into group B. I have no qualms with this- after what happened with Togo at the African Cup of Nations, we can’t be so naive to think that groups won’t take out their political angst on visiting teams and innocent civilians. I did see a few newspaper articles which suggested that France and Ireland should be separated- which just seems ridiculous to me (clearly not the same thing as Georgia/Russia and Armenia/Azerbaijan). Apparently UEFA agreed with me, and Plantini even welcomed the “great” match-up.
What do they need to do to qualify?
To qualify for Euro 2012, France (ranked 7th) will need to either win their group (automatic qualification) or place second, which makes them eligible to participate in a play-off game against another group’s second place team. The Euro 2012 finals will take place from June 8 to July 1 2012 in eight host cities – four in each of the two countries – with the final set to be held in Kiev.
Looking at this group on paper, there is no reason we shouldn’t qualify as first..easily! Romania (ranked 38th) and Bosnia (ranked are probably our biggest rival. In the World Cup qualification campaign Romania demonstrated how lethal they can be- They scored two goals against us in game 1 (which forced us to dig deep to equalize at 2-2) and the 1-1 draw in Paris closed the door on winning the World Cup group. Bosnia was extremely impressive in World Cup qualifying- only being stopped by current the European champions, Spain. They have an excellent team, including Zvjezdan Misimovic (Wolfsburg), Edin Dzeko (Wolfsburg) and Miralem Pjanic (Lyon). We have played and beaten Albania twice and France are 13-1 against Luxembourg (the loss was in 1914). Belarus (ranked 80th) and France have never faced each other- so they represent an unknown competitor. I don’t know much about Belarus’ team- but I don’t think traveling to unknown Eastern Europe stadium is ever a pleasant trip. The ferocity of the fans (with few traveling fans), the weather, quality of the stadium/field and travel time (since none of the French players are based there)- are just a few things that make those trips hard. And we will be going to Eastern Europe four times (Romania, Bosnia, Albania and Belarus).