The carnival has arrived

Gary Pritchard

Gary Pritchard

Friday, 21 Feb 2014, 17:26

The carnival has arrived in the south of France … no, not the Carnival de Nice … but the Uefa carnival.

Whilst the beautiful people of the Cote d’Azur enjoy the Roi de La Gastronomie food festival on the Riviera, the European football family has also descended on the resort to discover their Euro 2016 fate.

The majestic Acropolis building will be packed to the rafters on Sunday with officials, managers and the press from 54 nations from Albania to Wales, and amongst the throng will be the Sgorio crew.

For the third successive European championships, a new country takes its bow.

For Euro 2008 it was the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan who became European having transferred from the Asian Federation, and, having become independent of Serbia, Montenegro took their place for Euro 2012.

And this time it’s Gibraltar’s turn to make their debut having become full members of Uefa back in May 2013.

As well as having the highest number of countries in the qualifying rounds, Euro 2016, will also see the highest number of finals participants too.

With Michel Platini extending his home championship to include 24 countries – almost half of Uefa’s membership – Wales have a real chance of emulating their success of 1976.

Yes, that’s right … since 1976.

It’s too easy to forget the success of Mike smith’s side who finished top of their qualifying group ahead of Austria, Hungary and Luxembourg.

Back then, of course, only four countries made it through to the finals tournament and the quarter finals were played over two legs on a gome and away basis.

Wales lost in controversial circumstances against Yugoslavia but that shouldn’t diminish the achievments of Smith’s Wales side.

To come close to matching Terry Yorath, John Toshack, Leighton James and their team mates Wales need only finish third in their group.

With 23 countries joining France in two years time, the top two from each group will qualify automatically along with the best third placed side.

The remaining eight third placed sides will face each other in a play off for the right to book their tickets to France.

Of course, the challenge facing Wales depends entirely on who comes out of the hat to join us in our group.

For example, I’m sure Chris Coleman would prefer to see Moldova emerge from Pot 5 as opposed to Iceland – even if the official respinsible for booking the travel arrangements would disagree!

And I’m certain Coleman would be more confident of nicking points from Bosnia-Herzegovina from Pot 1 than he would be against the likes of Gwrmany or Spain.

So whilst our fingers are crossed as we hope for a relatively straight forward group, our fate lies with the footballing Gods in Nice on Sunday.

Remember to keep an eye on our Twitter feed over the weekend as we bring you the stories, the gossipA and the reaction from a Welsh perspective, straight from Nice.

Follow @Sgorio for the latest from Dylan Ebenezer and Gary Pritchard from Nice