As far as pre-determined routes to international tournament finals go, the right side of the Euro 2016 draw is among the toughest ever.
Five of the six pre-competition favourites must cross paths in a blockbuster-laden segment that’s sure to test the continent-conquering credentials of any potential victor.
Defending champions Spain will play global overlords Germany in the quarter final if they overcome Italy in the last-16, with a semi-final against either France or England awaiting the winner of that tie.
The heavy congestion in this side of the competition has obviously had an impact on the betting, with Belgium (19/4) and Portugal (13/2), whose passage to the final isn’t so recklessly strewn with hazardous obstacles, now embroiled amongst the punters’ fancies to raise the trophy.
There’s a strong case to be made for backing either to reign supreme based on where their possible final foe’s course to the decider ranks in the pantheon of impossibly difficult draws, but it’s the team who manoeuvre through the minefield that typically tops the pile.
Germany have previous for prevailing in the face of grave difficulty, having done so to win the World Cup in Brazil two years ago.
They beat the hosts in the semis and France in the preceding round en route to overcoming Argentina in the showpiece. The most complicated challenges the Albiceleste faced on the other side came against a Belgium team laced with tournament greenhorns and the overachieving Netherlands desperately short of world-class assets.
Spain had to scale border-brethren France and Portugal to earn a showpiece place against Italy in Euro 2012, with the Azzurri overcoming Germany and an England outfit who had been under the guidance of Roy Hodgson for a matter of weeks ahead of the Poland-Ukraine-hosted event.
When Les Bleus last won the European Championship in 2000 they did so at the expense of Italy, who fell to a David Trezeguet Golden Goal in the final, with Spain and Portugal knocked out along the way. By contrast, the Italians were in a half of the draw that contained the Netherlands, Romania and Yugoslavia.
Zambia provided one of the biggest shocks in Africa Cup of Nations history in 2012, when they beat Ivory Coast to lift the trophy, having escaped from a pool flooded with three previous tournament winners in Ghana, Sudan and Tunisia.
Across the Atlantic, Chile claimed the Centenario edition of the Copa America courtesy of a penalty shootout win over Argentina for the second successive season.
While the outcome of the showpiece may have been identical, their path to reach it was much more problematic, with Mexico and Colombia bounced as their opponents breezed past grossly inferior Venezuela and USA.