A balmy, football-filled summer may feel a long way off as winter begins to bite, frost steals the fallen leaves’ thunder and the nights draw further and further in.
Even so, Saturday evening will see that summer take shape, as a snowy Hamburg plays host to the final tournament draw at the city’s Elbphilharmonie concert hall.
Here are the key details…
When is the draw?
The draw ceremony is due to begin at 17:00 GMT on Saturday 2nd December 2023. The draw itself will, most likely, begin between 15 to 30 minutes after this time and ought to be wrapped up by around 18:00 GMT.
Where can I watch it?
The draw will be streamed live on UEFA TV from 17:00 GMT on Saturday.
Those in the UK can watch on BBC Two from 17:15 GMT, while the programme will also be accessible on BBC iPlayer.
Who is in the draw?
24 nations will compete in the tournament next summer, which kicks off with Germany’s Group A opener at Munich’s Allianz Arena at 8pm BST on Friday 14th June and concludes with the final at Berlin’s Olympiastadion at the same time on Sunday 14th July.
21 countries have sealed their place in the finals so far. Those are made up of Germany, who qualified automatically as hosts, and the top two of each of the 10 qualifying groups.
Three further teams will secure their finals berth in March via the play-offs. There are four teams within the three play-off paths, each of which will involve two semi-finals and a final.
The 24 balls within the draw, one for each participating nation, are divided into four pots of six teams. Each side’s pot is, primarily, decided by their performance within qualifying.
Germany will be seeded in Pot 1 but will not be drawn as they are automatically allocated to position A1 within Group A, while the three eventual play-off winners have been placed in Pot 4.
The teams within the draw are as follows…
Germany, Portugal, France, Spain, Belgium, England
Hungary, Türkiye, Romania, Denmark, Albania, Austria
Netherlands, Scotland, Croatia, Slovenia, Slovakia, Czechia
Italy, Serbia, Switzerland, Play-off winner A (Poland / Estonia / Wales / Finland), Play-off for winner B (Israel / Iceland / Bosnia-Herzegovina / Ukraine), Play-off winner C (Georgia / Luxembourg / Greece / Kazakhstan)
How does it work?
The draw will see one nation from every one of the four pots allocated to one of the six four-team groups, with team’s from the same pot being kept apart.
An additional six pots (A, B, C, D, E, F) will be utilised to draw countries’ positions in each group. There will be four balls within pots B-F (eg B1, B2, B3, B4) and only three within A (A2, A3, A4) due to Germany being automatically allocated position A1. This will determine the order of fixtures. ‘1’ in each group, for example, faces ‘2’ in their opening matchday before facing ‘3’ and then ‘4’.
This, therefore, all means that England won’t face any of Germany, France, Portugal or Spain within the group stage. Although they could, for instance, be placed into a group alongside Hungary, Scotland and Italy.
The Three Lions could also go into any group apart from Group A, because of the hosts’ pre-determined positioning.
The tournament itself will operate in the same way as Euro 2016 and Euro 2020 (played in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic). The top two nations in each of the six groups will qualify for the round of 16, alongside the four best third-placed sides.
From then on, the competition is a straight knockout.
Gareth Southgate’s team are the bookies’ favourites at present, closely followed by France. That, of course, counts for nothing when the actual football rolls around, but it does feel another reflection of England’s progress since the former Middlesbrough boss took the reins in 2016.
With that in mind, there ought be a good chance that the Three Lions will top their group. With the winners of groups B, C and F set to face a third-placed side – rather than a runner-up – in the round of 16, those could be seen as the best groups to be placed in.
Plenty of suggestions around supposedly favourable and unfavourable draws and potential paths to the final tend to, understandably, float around either side of such draws.
It is widely recognised that the sheer number of variables in play tend to mean there is little use in overthinking such things. Simultaneously, it is, in reality, all part of the fun.
The tournament schedule PDF can be found on UEFA’s website. This should be updated to include the competing nations and more specific match times in the days after the draw.
Games will be played across 10 cities: Berlin, Leipzig, Hamburg, Dortmund, Gelsenkirchen, Düsseldorf, Cologne, Frankfurt, Stuttgart and Munich.
Before we know it, the frost and biting cold will be a distant memory and that enticing summer of football will be zooming into view.