England may draw Scotland

Glenn Moore on a European draw with hidden depths
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The Independent Online
Uefa yesterday decided that, if Bosnia could play Croatia and the Czech Republic meet Slovakia, England and Scotland could be permitted to play each other after all.

After Tuesday's World Cup draw produced several potentially inflammatory ties involving the former component parts of Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia Uefa did consider keeping the British teams apart in tomorrow afternoon's draw for the final stages of the European Championships.

However, yesterday they decided against a "fix". England and Scotland, bound together by a single government since 1707, free from internecine war since 1746, and separate entities only in sporting matters, may play each other in the group stages after all. The Wembley goalposts will be trembling already.

When it comes to presenting the draw from Birmingham's International Convention Centre England and Scotland will definitely be together. With both main terrestrial channels televising events live duties will be shared by Sue Barker, of the BBC and England, and Bob Wilson, of ITV and Scotland.

The draw will be made, not by such celebrities as Denis Law or Pele, but by the instantly recognisable figures of Gerhard Aigner and Lennart Johansson, the general secretary and president of Uefa. The pair have, boast Uefa, jointly officiated at more than 100 draws. No excuse for nerves then.

Since only four teams are seeded, England, Denmark, Spain and Germany, the draw ought to be simple. But then it would be over too quickly - there are 1,500 guests, 600 journalists and an estimated 400 million television viewers to impress. So a complicated three-stage system of balls and bowls has been devised.

It is so cunning that very few people at Euro '96 seem able to explain it but it may work something like this. First the 12 unseeded teams will be drawn and placed, one by one, in groups one to four, so the first, fifth and ninth teams drawn will be in group one, the second, sixth and 10th in group two, and so on.

Then the seeds will be drawn and placed in groups. Whichever group England are in will be redesignated A (Wembley and Villa Park). The other groups will have their letter drawn from yet another bowl. B is Leeds and Newcastle, C is Old Trafford and Anfield, D is Hillsborough and the City Ground.