Paris, Dec 13 (IANS) Belgium and Italy were pitted against each other in the “Group of Death” while hosts France will kick off the 24-team tournament against Romania on June 10, according to the draw of the Euro 2016 football tournament.
World No.1 Belgium, who beat Italy 3-1 in an international friendly on November 13, have been rewarded with the most difficult group which forces them to take on Euro 2012 finalists Italy, as well as Ireland and Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s Sweden at the draw took place at the Palais des Congres here on Saturday, reports Xinhua.
What makes it tougher is that the winners of Group E will face the runners-up from Group D, which features defending champions Spain, the Czech Republic, Turkey and Croatia, and the runners-up of Group E will take on the winners from Group F, which includes Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal, Iceland, Austria and Hungary.
Hosts France play the tournament’s curtain raiser at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, the northern suburb to Paris, on June 10 against Romania in Group A, where they will also meet Albania and Switzerland.
The draw also pitted England and Wales in Group B. The British nations, who never met on international stage, will clash each other at Lens on June 16 in the group that also features Russia and Slovakia.
World Cup holders Germany head Group C and will take on Poland, Northern Ireland and Ukraine.
With the tournament expanding from 16 teams to 24 teams, the Euro 2016 Finals will see top two teams from each group advance along with the best four third-placed of the six groups to make the last 16.
The final is due on July 10 at the Stade de France, a target of last month’s Paris attacks and where France were crowned the 1998 World Cup champions.
Conducted by UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino, with assistance from a number of leading football stars like France’s David Trezeguet, the draw was undergoing without Michel Platini, the European soccer governing body’s president who has been barred from all football activities for 90 days due to allegations of corruption alongside with current FIFA boss Sepp Blatter.
Platini’s name, however, appeared on the big screen during the ceremony as a footage showing the memories of the European Championships since 1972.
While Platini being excluded from the five candidates for FIFA presidency, Infantino is among them to replace Blatter in the top job in world football.