England face Germany in European Championships

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Already headed to play each other in the World Cup qualifying competition for 2002, Germany and England were drawn on today to also meet in next summer's European Championship finals.

Already headed to play each other in the World Cup qualifying competition for 2002, Germany and England were drawn on today to also meet in next summer's European Championship finals.

Three-time and defending champion Germany must also play Romania and Portugal in the first round of Group A games when the championship is played June 10-July 2.

In other other groups, World Cup holder France meets co-host the Netherlands, Czech Republic, which qualified with a record 10 wins out of 10, and 1992 winner Denmark.

Group B has co-host Belgium along with Sweden, Turkey and 1968 titlist Italy and, in Group C, it is Spain, Norway, Yugoslavia and 125/1 outsider Slovenia.

The opening game between Belgium and Sweden is at the King Baudouin (formerly Heysel) stadium in Brussels and the final will be at the De Kuip stadium in Rotterdam.

There was already an air of expectation in the Expo Center when former Belgian star striker Paul Van Himst and Dutch midfielder Johan Neeskens pulled England's name out and placed it in Group A alongside the Germans.

It meant that one of the most famous matchups in world soccer was headed for another game, this time in the 30,000 capacity Stade du Pays at Charleroi, 30 miles (50 kilometers) south of Brussels on June 17.

That game will go with the 1966 World Cup final at Wembley, where England triumphed 4-2 after extra time, the 1970 World Cup quarterfinal at Leon, Mexico, where the Germans won 3-2 and ended England' reign as world titlist, the 1990 World Cup semifinal at Turin, Italy, where the Germans won a penalty shootout after extra time, and the 1996 European Championship semifinal when the Germans won another shootout.

When the Germans won in 1990 and '96, they went on to win the titles.

"It's a hammer," said German coach Erich Ribbeck. "We'll have to strive real hard to finish first or second in the group."

The top two teams in each group advance to the quarterfinal.

"I won't do handstands and say it's fantastic but it's not the hardest group," England coach Kevin Keegan said. "It's a fair group.

"There was never going to be any easy ones, they are all going to be tough and we have got as tough a group as anybody."

Group D appears to be the toughest although it fell short of being a so-called Group of Death.

The Dutch are the bookmakers favorites, especially with home advantage, the Czechs had the best qualifying record and were runners up at the last finals in 1996 and the French are the current world champions. The Danes can't be written off having won the title in 1992.

The eye-catching matchup between France and the Netherlands will be at the ArenA, Amsterdam, June 21, the last day of Group D games.

Sweden and Italy, the strongest teams in Group B, are expected to be fighting over top spot and will meet June 19 at the Philips Stadium, Eindhoven.

In Group C, neighbors Yugoslavia and Slovenia meet at Charleroi June 13, the same day group favorite Spain meets Norway at the De Kiup Stadium, Rotterdam.

Euro 2000 finals schedule (all times GMT):

Group A (Germany, Romania, Portugal, England)

June 12 Germany v Romania (Liege 1600GMT) Portugal v England (Eindhoven 1845)

June 17 Romania v Portugal (Arhnem 1600) England v Germany (Charleroi 1845)

June 20 England v Romania (Charleroi 1845) Germany v Portugal (Rotterdam 1845)

Group B (Belgium, Sweden, Turkey, Italy)

June 10 Belgium v Sweden (Brussels 1845)

June 11 Turkey v Italy (Arnhem 1230)

June 14 Belgium v Italy (Brussels 1845)

June 15 Sweden v Turkey (Eindhoven 1845)

June 19 Belgium v Turkey (Brussels 1845) Italy v Sweden (Eindhoven 1845)

Group C (Spain, Norway, Yugoslavia, Slovenia)

June 13 Spain v Norway (Rotterdam 1600) Yugoslavia v Slovenia (Charleroi 1845)

June 18 Spain v Slovenia (Amsterdam 1600) Norway v Yugoslavia (Liege 1845)

June 21 Yugoslavia v Spain (Bruges 1600) Slovenia v Norway (Arnhem 1600)

Group D (Netherlands, Czech Republic, France, Denmark)

June 11 France v Denmark (Bruges 1600) Netherlands v Czech Republic (Amsterdam 1845)

June 16 Czech Republic v France (Bruges 1600) Netherlands v Denmark (Rotterdam 1845)

June 21 Denmark v Czech Republic (Liege 1845) France v Netherlands (Amsterdam 1845)

Quarter-finals June 24 Amsterdam 1600: 1st Group A - 2nd Group B (E) June 24 Brussels 1845: 1st Group B - 2nd Group A (F) June 25 Rotterdam 1600: 1st Group D - 2nd Group C (G) June 25 Bruges 1045: 1st Group C - 2nd Group D (H)

Semi-finals June 28 Brussels 1845: E - H June 29 Amsterdam 1845: F - G

FinalJuly 2 Rotterdam 1800