So, the draw has been completed and all of the 16 finalists now know their upcoming fixtures and possible route to the final. The completed groups are as follows...:
GROUP A: Poland, Greece, Russia, Czech Republic
GROUP B: Holland, Denmark, Germany, Portugal
GROUP C: Spain, Italy, Ireland, Croatia
GROUP D: Ukraine, Sweden, France, England
As we can see, group B is certainly the infamous 'group of death' with any of the teams involved having a chance of qualifying (including Denmark, who overcame Portugal to top their qualifying group). Whilst group C and D certainly seem competitive in some aspects, group A is the weakest of the bunch (if you were to add up the world ranking positions of the four teams, it would be a massive 125, compared to just 22 in group B). But I imagine most of you are more interested about the chances of England in this tournament, so let's focus on their competitors...
As the second weakest side in the competition, Ukraine will certainly be up against it with the likes of Sweden, France and of course the English, but it would be foolish to rule them out straight away. The 55th ranked side in the world have enjoyed an unbeaten four-game run since October, including an entertaining 3-3 draw against WC semi-finalists Germany. They will also be playing most of their matches in their home country, which will provide them with the massive support they need to possibly emulate the achievements of Greece back in 2004 (when they were hosts). Participating in their second major tournament of the century, they may struggle due to the lack of experience at this level and due to the fact that they haven't faced the competitiveness of qualify, I predicted a bottom finish for the co-hosts.
Erik Hamren’s team are the ones to watch in this group in my opinion. The Swede's certainly gave Holland a run for their money during the qualifying campaign, finishing three points behind the Dutch and beating them 3-2 in the process. England should be wary of the threat from top scorer, Zlatan Ibrahimović, as well as the deadly midfield duo of Larsson and Källström, who scored six goals between them during the qualifying stages. With 21 goals in their last 9, including 5-0 wins over San Marino and Finland, the Scandinavians have proved that they are a goal scoring threat, but have lost the last two friendlies against fellow WC finalists Denmark and England. Nevertheless, I am backing the Swede's to grab the second position to progress to the quarters.
The French certainly showed their very ugly side in their last major tournament, finishing bottom in the group stages with embarrassing scenes along the way (anyone remember that strike?). But the cheese-eating surrender monkeys have certainly turned over a new leaf since the appointment of former Manchester United defender Laurent Blanc as manager. They managed qualify automatically, although it was a bit of a struggle, finishing just one point ahead of the 23rd seeds Bosnia-Herzegovina. They also haven't been able to find the net as easily as they wanted. Les Bleus scored 15 goals during the qualifying stage, the second lowest total out of the group winners (only Greece  had scored less whilst finishing first). However, despite this, France has gone an extraordinary run of 17 games unbeaten, which is fairly impressive for a side that have a very minimal goal threat. I just don't see them qualifying from this group... zut alors!
You can probably guess by this analysis that I fully expect England to qualify from the group stages in first position, and possibly go on to the semis, but I'll post my thoughts closer to the time so that I don't tempt fate...