Italy, Croatia tough options as lower-seeded teams in Euro 2024 draw
HAMBURG, Germany (AP) — Defending champion Italy and World Cup semifinalist Croatia are among the lower-seeded teams in Saturday's draw for next year's European Championship, a quirk created by the way UEFA decides the seedings for the tournament.
While FIFA relies on its world rankings to help ensure no powerhouse team comes out of the lowest-ranked pot 4 in its World Cup draws, UEFA is basing its seedings for Euro 2024 solely on the teams' results and points earned in qualifying for the tournament.
So Italy — which finished second in its qualifying group and dropped plenty of points along the way — is in pot 4 alongside three playoff winners yet to be determined. Croatia and the Netherlands are both in pot 3 together with teams like Scotland and Slovenia, who rarely reach major tournaments.
Host Germany and group winners are in pot 1 for the 24-team draw in Hamburg, which is held in a ceremony that starts at 6 p.m. local time (1700 GMT) on Saturday.
The draw will have placeholders in pot 4 for the three eventual winners of the second-chance qualifying playoffs in March.
Joining Germany in pot 1 are the five teams with the best records among the 10 group winners in qualifying: Portugal, France, Spain, Belgium and England.
Portugal had a perfect record of 10 wins, and the five teams lost just one game between them: Spain’s 2-0 loss at Scotland in March.
Those five teams are also all in the top eight of FIFA’s current world rankings. Germany is in a relative slump at No. 16 after a troubled year.
The rest of the draw has quirks and wrinkles.
This pot includes the other five group winners and the runner-up with the best record, which was Austria from the group Belgium won.
Here are some surprises, like Albania topping a group that included Poland and the Czech Republic.
Romania won its group ahead of Switzerland and Turkey edged Croatia for top spot.
Hungary and Denmark — a Euro 2020 semifinalist — complete the teams in this pot. None of the six options would likely cause sleepless nights for those ranked below them in the draw.
Croatia and the Netherlands are among six runners-up in pot 3 who dropped more points than Austria. The Dutch were beaten home and away by a dominant France.
Both Croatia and the Netherlands lost to eventual champion Argentina at last year's World Cup, in the semifinals and quarterfinals, respectively, and look like the toughest options in a pot that also includes the Czechs, Scotland, Slovakia and Slovenia, which last reached the Euros in 2000.
Qualifying for major tournaments is such an adventure for Italy. After failing to reach the last two World Cups, being in pot 4 is perhaps not so bad for the defending champion after another unconvincing qualifying campaign.
Italy was beaten twice in qualifying by England and needed to hold on for a decisive 0-0 draw against Ukraine last week just to finish second in the group.
Serbia and Switzerland are also in this pot plus the three winners from the playoffs which offer a range of options from Robert Lewandowski’s Poland to Luxembourg.
The playoff brackets are based on their Nations League results last year, with Luxembourg in the lowest tier together with Georgia, Kazakhstan and Euro 2004 champion Greece.
There is also the possibility of a playoff final in March between Ukraine and Israel, two countries currently fighting wars.
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