PARIS (AFP) - The Euro 2016 draw on Saturday pitted England against Wales and Germany against Poland in two spotlight groups at the championships.
The British nations who have never met at an international tournament will clash in Group B – playing each other at Lens on June 16.
The group also features Russia and Slovakia.
“England, Slovakia and Russia! Will be incredible, bring it on!!” said Wales defender Ben Davies on Twitter as he launched the countdown to the crunch Group B match between the British nations at Lens on June 16.
England manager Roy Hodgson paid tribute to the work of his Wales counterpart Chris Coleman in lifting the principality.
“Chris and Wales have done so well. Whatever team we got from pot four it would have been tough, so we might as well play someone close to home.
“Wales are very well organised, have a team spirit and very strong spine with Ashley Williams, Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale – top class European players,” he added.
“Russia and Slovakia will be interesting. I have not come across either of those two teams in my international management before.
“There will be plenty of research between now and June and we can find out as much as we can before the campaign.”
Coleman said: “It’s going to a great game between two good teams. To win 10 games like they (England) did in the qualifying campaign is a fantastic return.
“England are one of the best teams, but we’re looking forward to it. When you get to a tournament, it’s that 90 minutes and you’ve got to get it right.”
World Cup winners Germany head Group C and will have to take on Poland, Northern Ireland and Ukraine.
Germany boss Joachim Loew said his team would be foolish to under-estimate Ukraine and Northern Ireland, even if their clash with Poland is the key to Group C.
The world champions will take on Ukraine in Lille in their opener on June 12 followed by Poland in Paris on June 16 and Northern Ireland, also in Paris, on June 21.
“It means we must be fully concentrated from the first game,” said Loew at the draw in Paris.
“Poland have a lot of quality, but Northern Ireland and Ukraine, with the way they defend and counter-attacking game, can also be unpleasant to play.
“We are the favourites and we want to win the group.”
Germany team manager Oliver Bierhoff was happy to avoid bogey side Italy in the draw.
“We certainly had some luck and we definitely wanted to avoid Italy,” said Bierhoff. “But of course we have to take our group opponents seriously.”
Bierhoff, who scored the winner for Germany in the final to win the Euro 1996 title, said he was personally pleased Germany would face Northern Ireland, against whom he scored a hat-trick in six minutes in 1997.
“I scored my fastest hat-trick there,” said Bierhoff, who scored all Germany’s goals in a 3-1 win in a 1998 World Cup qualifier in August 1997 in Belfast.
Bayern Munich forward Thomas Mueller said he was looking forward to facing club team-mate and Poland captain Robert Lewandowski.
“I am happy with our Euro 2016 group,” tweeted Mueller, adding: “hold back against us, Lewy!”
Defending champions Spain will have to take on Czech Republic, Turkey and Croatia in Group D.
Said Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque: “We’ve drawn two teams who played in the same group as the Netherlands and eliminated them, Turkey and Czech Republic.
“We also have to face Croatia who are very strong and are among the strongest teams at this tournament. They have excellent players. It will be very difficult for us.”
Turkey coach Fatih Terim said: “(Holders) Spain are the favourites obviously but the two other teams are very good with great players too. We hope we can make it through the group.”
“Spain are the favourites," said Croatia coach Ante Cacic. "The Czechs are a strong team with a very good coach. The schedule suits us, we are happy to be closing the group stage campaign against the Spaniards.”
Group E could be the most difficult to get one of the top two places however with Belgium and Italy taking on Republic of Ireland and Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s Sweden.
“A hard but great group for Belgium,” said Manchester City and Belgium skipper Vincent Kompany on Twitter. “The atmosphere in those games will be incredible.”
“It’s a tough group,” added his teammate Alex Witsel.
Republic of Ireland coach Martin O’Neill said he could not have chosen a harder group.
“It couldn’t get tougher,” he said.
O’Neill said Italy should have been among the top-ranked seeds.
“It is something to look forward to for the fans but it couldn’t be tougher.
“Sweden in the first game is something to look forward to. Let’s go for it and leave nothing behind.
“Now we know who we are up against, we can study players individually. It is a bit of a maze but we’ll get down to plotting something.”
Italy coach Antonio Conte said Belgium are among the “favourites” to reach the final stages.
“Then I see pretty equal teams with Sweden, us and Ireland. I think Belgium are among the favourites. We know all the strengths of Zlatan Ibrahimovic.”
The Sweden striker, who has lifted Paris St Germain among Europe’s top club sides, will be getting a chance to shine on the international stage.
“Ireland are certainly a team who play with a lot of emotion, who are strong with their team spirit and great intensity. So we have to be careful,” said Conte.
Said Belgium coach Marc Wilmots: “It’s not an easy draw, it’s the most difficult opponents we could have. It’s a challenge but we do have ambition and we have to be able to perform against anyone.”
Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal will take on Iceland, Austria and Hungary in Group F.
Said Portugal coach Fernando Santos: “I don’t believe in easy groups, nor in difficult groups. What I do believe in is work. Iceland are a team that have improved a lot during the last few years. They qualified directly from their group, eliminating the Netherlands in the process, which says a lot about their potential.
“Austria are also a team that have been improving lately and have great players like David Alaba, Christian Fuchs and Marko Arnautovic. Hungary are probably the opponents we know the least about because we have not faced them for a long time.”
Iceland’s Swedish coach Lars Lagerback said: “We didn’t end up in the hardest group. I think it’s possible to take points off all of them.
“We met Austria a few years ago in a friendly, they are tough to play, physical and direct. They are definitely a tough team to meet.”
Hungary coach Bernd Storck: “I think that Portugal are the favourites to win the group and they are among the favourites to reach the final.”
“We can be happy with the draw," said Austria captain Christian Fuchs. "We will enjoy playing against a great side like Portugal and a world-class player like Cristiano Ronaldo. “The group is a tough one though. Hungary and Iceland have shut down some good sides.”
Hosts France play the tournament’s curtain raiser on June 10 against Group A opponents Romania.
Said France coach Didier Deschamps: “We don’t know the Romanian team that well. They performed very well during the qualification stage with the best defence and just two goals scored against them. It is the most important match for us.
“We have to be careful (in this group) and not be over confident. Switzerland have a lot of international experience.”
On opening the championship against the hosts in Paris on June 10, Romania coach Anghel Iordanescu said: “I would have preferred not to play at the beginning of the competition, and not against France.
“If we analyse our games from the qualifiers we can say that we have a good defence but at the same time we did not score so many goals...this can be a problem for us.”
France and Romania will also have to face Albania and Switzerland.
The final is on July 10 at the Stade de France in Paris.
Full draw results:
Group A: France, Romania, Albania, Switzerland
Group B: England, Russia, Wales, Slovakia
Group C: Germany, Ukraine, Poland, Northern Ireland
Group D: Spain, Czech Republic, Turkey, Croatia
Group E: Belgium, Italy, Republic of Ireland, Sweden
Group F: Portugal, Iceland, Austria, Hungary