THE England manager Gareth Southgate joked that he would give some of his backroom team Christmas off after his side were pitted against some familiar opponents in the draw for UEFA EURO2020 in Bucharest on Saturday.

England were again paired with Croatia, whom they faced each in last year's World Cup semi-finals in Russia and then last autumn in the UEFA Nations League, in Group D for next summer's finals. But, with the series split evenly at one win apiece and a draw, England will be hoping home advantage will give them the upper hand as it did when they won the most recent meeting between the sides at Wembley last November. The teams are due to open the group on Sunday, June 14.

Meanwhile, the Czechs finished runners-up to England in Group A qualifying largely thanks to a 2-1 win in Prague in October which inflicted a first defeat on the Three Lions in 43 European Championship and World Cup qualifiers, a result that was a far cry from the 5-0 hammering dished out at the start of the campaign.

It left Southgate wary of making too many predictions despite the familiarity of the opposition.

“Yeah, our analysts won’t have to do too much work; they’ll be delighted,” he said following the draw. “They can put their feet up for Christmas. But, yeah, teams that we’ve had really good performances and results against and lost to, so we know there’s no room for complacency. And, of course, we have to see who comes through the play-off.


“I think that, if anything, the fact that we’ve lost to both of those teams [Croatia and Czech Republic] is important for our mentality, because it would be easy to be complacent given that we’re at home, given that we have beaten these teams. But we know the quality that Croatia have, and we know that the Czech Republic were hugely improved from when we played them at Wembley when we played them in Prague.”

Southgate's Croatian counterpart, Zlatko Dalic, was quick to point out that the game would be another that could go either way.

“It’s going to be the same as in the semi-finals of the World Cup, as well as the Nations League,” said Dalic. “They’re the favourites in our group and I’ve said before that they’re a team that are taking huge steps forward, and they’re bringing football home.”

The complexion of Group D could take on an even more familiar feel should Scotland make it through to the finals via the EURO2020 play-offs which take place next year. Steve Clarke's side already knew prior to the draw that they would be placed in the same group as England.

They will host Croatia and the Czech's at Hampden Park should they make it past Israel on March 26 and then Norway or Serbia five days as well as facing a trip to Wembley for a tie that would conjure up memories of the side's thrilling encounter at the famous old stadium during Euro 96.

If Scotland were to come through, they would start the tournament against the Czech Republic on Monday, June 15, followed by the journey south to take on the Auld Enemy at Wembley, four days later, before rounding off Group D by hosting World Cup finalists Croatia at Hampden on June 23.