NICE: The draw for the qualifying competition of the 2016 European Championship – heading for the finals in France – will put a revolutionary new face on the national team football after the draw in Nice.
The old system under which federations negotiated their own fixture schedules has gone. Instead, UEFA’s ‘Week of Football’ means that the European federation has dictated the dates.
A prime example of how this may upset traditionalists comes during the opening round (September 7-9) when England go to Switzerland – their main rivals in Group E – on September 8, a Monday evening. England play their second match on October 9 – a Thursday – at home to group minnows San Marino.
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The early ‘luck of the draw’ threw up the coincidental impossibility of newest UEFA member Gibraltar being draw in Spain’s group. However, since this had already been discounted for political reasons the debutant Rock was shifted into Group D with Germany. Similarly, Armenia could not be drawn in the same group as Azerbaijan and had to be shifted.
Qualifying matches will be played in UEFA’s so-called ‘Week of Football’ in which matches will be staged from Thursday to Tuesday so as to maximise possible television coverage to fit in with the new centralised marketing by the European federation of broadcasting rights.
Hosts France have been included in Group I for TV/commercial reasons. Their matches will not count in the outcome of the section.
Group A: Holland with Kazakhstan, Iceland, Latvia, Turkey, Czech Republic.
Group B: Bosnia-Herzegovina with Andorra, Cyprus, Wales, Israel, Belgium.
Group C: Spain with Luxembourg, Macedonia, Belarus, Slovakia, Ukraine.
Group D: Germany with Gibraltar, Georgia, Scotland, Poland, Republic of Ireland.
Group E: England with San Marino, Lithuania, Estonia, Slovenia, Switzerland.
Group F: Greece with Faroe Islands, Northern Ireland, Finland, Romania, Hungary.
Group G: Russia with Liechtenstein, Moldova, Montenegro, Austria, Sweden.
Group H: Italy with Malta, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Norway, Croatia.
Group I: Portugal with Albania, Armenia, Serbia, Denmark (plus France).