UEFA secretary general Gerhard Aigner of Germany will take charge in Porto of today's draw for the qualifying competition for Euro 2004. The event will be held in Portugal in four years' time.
All Israeli soccer supporters, as well as millions of other fans from across the continent, will be watching when the draw begins at 1 P.M. (live on Channel 1), as Aigner oversees European and world soccer celebrities choosing the 50 balls with the names of the competing nations.
The teams have been divided up according to their performance in the last World Cup qualifying tournament. Since Israel and Austria are together in pot C out of the five pots which divide up the countries according to their strength, there won't be a third straight meeting between the two nations and they will be separated into different groups.
As Israeli fans look for the most comfortable options among the opposition, it is clear that a group victory in any of the 10 groups would be very unlikely. Probably the best Israel can hope for would be a runners-up spot. Pot A contains some pretty daunting names, and it is clear that there is no real chance of finishing ahead of the likes of France, the Czech Republic, Germany or Italy.
Nor would it be easy against Sweden, or Ireland. Perhaps the most comfortable and least daunting group leader would be either Romania, Belgium or Turkey as Israel may well be able to take points off these teams.
Pot B's opponents are almost as frightening as those in Pot A, with Holland and England leaving Israel with the worst possible chance of gaining a second-place finish. Not that the other Pot B teams will be easy - Russia, Croatia, Denmark, Yugoslavia, Poland, Slovenia, Ukraine and Scotland.
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