Euro 2012 draw kind on England
But travel nightmare awaits and the Republic face Spain and Italy
By Peter Fraser - Follow me on twitter @SkySportsPeteF. Last Updated: December 3, 2011 2:42pm
England and the Republic of Ireland narrowly avoided being pitched against each other at the finals of Euro 2012, as the two nations experienced mixed fortunes during Friday's draw in Kiev.
Fabio Capello's England were the last team to be picked, as they were drawn in Group D with co-hosts and top seeds Ukraine, 2000 European champions France and old rivals Sweden, but they will also face travel chaos.
The draw - in theory, at least - appeared favourable to other groups for the Three Lions, who are ranked fifth in the world by FIFA, but the same could not be said for Giovanni Trapattoni's Republic of Ireland.
Having coming through the play-offs, the Republic were drawn in the daunting Group C along with reigning world and European champions Spain, Croatia and Italy.
Euro 2012 finals draw:
Czech Republic Group B
Portugal Group C
Republic of Ireland
Croatia Group D
The Netherlands, defeated World Cup finalists in 2010, were drawn in Group B, which is next summer's traditional group of death, along with 1992 European champions Denmark, Portugal and historical foes Germany.
A favourable-looking Group A included hosts Poland, who were automatically given their top seed, the Czech Republic, 2004 champions Greece and Russia.
Capello's side will begin their campaign against rivals France, who they have not beaten in five meetings, in Donetsk on 11th June.
They then face Sweden four days later in Kiev and complete their group campaign against hosts Ukraine on 19th June in Donetsk.
England have chosen to base their training camp in the Polish city of Krakow, but all their group games will now be played in Ukraine and so the squad and fans are facing a travel nightmare of thousands of miles.
The Republic, appearing in the European Championship for the first time since 1988, will open against Croatia in Poznan on 10th June.
But it is the games against Spain, winners in 2008 and World Cup victors in South Africa last year, and Trapattoni's native Italy which will most excite their fans.
Trapattoni's men will travel to Gdansk to face Spain on 14th June and return to Poznan to play Italy four days later.