Ahead of Friday’s Euro 2012 draw, national team legends John Barnes and Chris Waddle duke it out...
Chris Waddle: NO
“If we get the group of death and we’re playing France and then Spain, for example, we’ve got to beat these teams anyway to win it. I think we’d all prefer to be drawn in a group with the so-called weaker nations, but are there any weak nations in the Euros? Not really. They’ve all qualified well.
“We went to South Africa for the World Cup with a comfortable group and we struggled. That’s all down to tournaments and whether you turn up as a team. If you can put a statement out and win your first couple of games, everyone will be talking about you and you create a buzz.
“All the teams are of a decent standard, but in England we tend to categorise teams. We think Greece are of a lesser standard, yet they qualified unbeaten and top of their group, and won the competition in Portugal in 2004.
So a group of death is irrelevant, because every team in the tournament is capable of causing England problems.”
Barnes and Waddle are football analysts for ESPN’s coverage of the FA Cup and Barclays Premier League; espn.co.uk
John Barnes: YES
“I don’t see a group of death working to England’s advantage. It’s like in the FA Cup — the top teams want to start with a lower-league team at home, not one of the other top sides. You don’t want to be playing them until later on in the tournament, particularly if Wayne Rooney’s three-match ban for his red card in Montenegro [currently the subject of appeal] is going to stand. This makes it doubly difficult as he’s England’s attacking impetus.
“It’s fantastic if you can start off well in a tournament. A bad performance and result can be overcome but, ultimately, you want to win the first game. People saying that playing Spain in the group stage would be a good thing is a positive way of looking at things, but if you had a choice, you wouldn’t want them.
“There’s a theory doing the rounds that there will be less expectation of winning the tournament from the press and public if England are drawn in a hard group. But if you asked me whether I’d want more expectation and to play lesser teams in the group stage, rather than have less expectancy and to play tougher teams, I’d choose the former.”
(Images: Rex, Getty, ESPN)