England and Wales will play Russia and Slovakia in Group B next summer
England will take on Wales in Euro 2016 in France next summer after both sides were drawn into Pool B, where they will be joined by Russia and Slovakia.
In what looks like a tricky but far from intimidating group, England will begin their bid for European glory against Russia in Marseilles on June 11, with Wales playing their first ever Euro finals match against Slovakia on the same day in Bordeaux. The two home nation rivals will then play each other in Lens on June 16.
Northern Ireland will have to face reigning world champions Germany in Group C, with that match in Paris scheduled for June 21, before which they will play Ukraine and Poland in Nice and Lyon respectively.
The Republic of Ireland however have been dealt an extremely tough draw, as they will have to play FIFA’s current world number-one ranked side Belgium, Euro 2012 runners-up Italy, and a Zlatan Ibrahimovic-inspired Sweden in Group E.
Elsewhere, hosts France were given a relatively kind draw, as they will face Romania, Albania and Switzerland in Group A, with France v Romania being the opening game of the tournament at the Stade de France on June 10.
Reigning European champions Spain will face the Czech Republic, Turkey and Croatia in Group D, while Group F contains Portugal, Iceland, Austria and Hungary in what appears to be the weakest group of the lot.
England had a 50-50 chance of drawing one of their Celtic neighbours in the championships, with Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland all being in pot 4 heading into the draw, and now they will have to be on their guard against a motivated and dangerous Welsh side in what looks to be one of the standout fixtures from the group-stage.
This is of course the first tournament Wales have qualified for in 58 years, but they will consider themselves to have a great chance of making the knockout-stage, having also been drawn against a decent but not outstanding Russia side, and the relative outsiders of Slovakia, teams that England and Wales will fancy their chances of beating, but nobody is any doubt as to which game everyone in the two countries will be looking forward to most.
Northern Ireland did well to qualify for this tournament, especially as group winners, but they will have a tough time getting out of this pool. They may believe they have a chance of beating Ukraine in their second match, but they will up against it when facing a Poland side containing Robert Lewandowski, and world champions Germany. Getting out of that group will be a significant achievement for the Ulster-men, while Germany v Poland at the Stade de France on June 16 should be one of the highlights of the tournament.
If making the knockout-stage would be great result for Northern Ireland, it would be a terrific one for their southern counterparts. The Republic did qualify for this tournament from a difficult group and tough playoff, and they seem to be at their best when they are underdogs, but they will need to be when they touch down in France next summer.
They start off against Sweden at the Stade de France on June 13, which will probably represent their best chance of securing a victory at this tournament before playing Belgium in Bordeaux on June 18 and finishing off against Italy in Lille on June 22. The match between Belgium and Italy on June 13 in Lyon should also be one of the most stand-out matches from the group-stage.
France, Spain and Portugal should all get fairly easy passages to the knockout-stage, with their greatest tests likely to come against Switzerland, Croatia and Austria respectively. One way or another, it would be a major shock if any of those sides didn’t make the last-16, particularly as France and Spain will have their eyes set on winning the tournament.
Euro 2016 begins on June 10, with the final taking place on July 10, with 51 matches packed into the one-month schedule. UK viewers will be able to watch every match on either the BBC or ITV. And be sure to earmark June 16 as a day to finish work early, as the England v Wales match will kick-off at 2pm UK time.
Group A: France, Romania, Albania, Switzerland
Group B: England, Russia, Wales, Slovakia
Group C: Germany, Ukraine, Poland, N Ireland
Group D: Spain, Czech Republic, Turkey, Croatia
Group E: Belgium, Italy, R Ireland, Sweden
Group F: Portugal, Iceland, Austria, Hungary