Could have been better, but could have been much worse, was Fabio Capello’s verdict on last night’s Euro 2012 draw after England were paired with France, Sweden and co-hosts Ukraine.
The England manager said he felt it was the second-weakest group. He said: "I think Group B is very difficult because Portugal, Germany and Holland are very tough. Probably the best group was Group A, but we are happy with Group D. It is a tough but better than Group B."
Capello added that England will not move their base from Poland, even though all of their group games will be played in Ukraine. He said: "Absolutely not, because we have found a really good place. I am happy with the facilities and we will stay in Krakow."
England will be spending a lot of time in the air. Two of their matches are in Donetsk, on the eastern frontier, 940 miles away from Krakow, the other is in Kiev. It is not that easy a group, but Capello will expect to qualify.
The Republic of Ireland have a tougher task being drawn with favourites Spain, coach Giovanni Trapattoni's home nation Italy, and Croatia. Their games are in Poland.
The draw also threw up two other very contrasting groups. Marco van Basten put his countrymen into a glamorous "group of death": Netherlands, Germany, Portugal and Denmark. This group will inspire viewers worldwide to take the phone off the hook, draw the curtains and tune in. Group A, however, has Poland, Russia, Greece and the Czech Republic, so it might be a good time to do all those domestic chores which tend to get neglected during a tournament. It features the opening match in which co-hosts Poland face Greece on 8 June in Warsaw.
Ireland will start their campaign against Croatia in Poznan on 10 June, then face Spain in Gdansk on 14 June before returning to Poznan to play Italy four days later.
Capello said the most difficult match was the first, against France, in Donetsk, on 11 June, "because of the pressure and the importance of the result". The match is an echo of England's opening game in the 2004 tournament, on the other side of Europe in Lisbon, France winning an epic with two late Zinedine Zidane goals. Four days later, England face Sweden in Kiev before returning to Donetsk, for their fans an 11-hour train ride away, to play Ukraine.
Group D draw
Ukraine, Sweden, France, EnglandReuse content