It appears somewhat premature, considering that the World Cup finals are still four months away, but last Friday saw the draw for the Euro 2008 Championships qualifying tournament at Uefa headquarters in Switzerland. Whoever will take over from the current England manager will not be overly worried by the opposition.

The top two teams in each of the seven-country groups go through, and England face the manageable challenges of Croatia, Russia and Israel among three other minor nations. The remainder of the British and Irish contingent, however, have been handed up-hill struggles. The Republic of Ireland and Wales find themselves in the same group for the first time ever, and need to overcome Germany, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

No change in fortune for much maligned Scotland, France, Italy and the Ukraine stand in their way! Lastly, Northern Ireland’s chances look minimal when considering that Spain, Sweden and Denmark provide the opposition.

Portugal take on seven teams in the largest group in the tournament. Serbia & Montenegro look to be the strongest challengers, followed by Poland, Belgium and Finland. Armenia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan make up the remainder.