No wonder the representatives of the teams drawn out in Group E looked so sad after the Euro 2016 draw on Saturday night.
Antonio Conte (Italy), Erik Hemren (Sweden), Martin O’Neill (Republic of Ireland) and Vital Borkelmans (Belgium) all lined up for the picture above, looking like they had won the booby prize at the Euro 2016 draw.
On paper, Group E looks the toughest to call.
Belgium come into the Euros as the number one ranked side in the world with a squad teeming with Premier League talent.
Italy were clearly the best side in Pot 2 and in Antonio Conte have a wily coach with plenty of players with lots of international experience.
Sweden were the best side in Pot 3, and in Zlatan Ibrahimovic have a striker no side in Europe would want to face. Just ask Denmark.
Finally, Republic of Ireland were one of the toughest teams in Pot 4 and will surely make life harder for the other three sides in Group E.
But, its not just the make-up of the four teams that make Group E the Group of Death.
It is also the scheduling of the competition with UEFA having been accused of not thinking through the mechanics of a 24-team tournament.
Forget corruption at UEFA, perhaps Europe’s governing body haven’t thought about how to structure a 24-team tournament properly?!
Essentially, it breaks down to the following:
1. The winners of groups A, B, C and D get to play third placed teams. The winners of groups E and F however have to play runners-up.
2. The runners-up of groups A, B, C and F will play other runners-up, however if you finish second in groups D and F you will face group winners.
Both are clear disadvantages and Chris Coleman, the Wales boss, told reporters before the draw that he was eager not to be drawn in Group E.
Since Belgium and Italy could count themselves amongst the teams vying for the trophy, the fact they have been drawn in Group E and face tough teams is pretty bad news from the draw.
— Martyn Ziegler (@martynziegler) December 12, 2015
— Ian Baldwin (@balders93) December 8, 2015
— Italy (@azzurri) December 12, 2015
— BelgianRedDevils (@BelRedDevils) December 12, 2015