Created on 23-02-2014 at 12:38 PM
There are still two-and-a-half years to go until the next European Championship, to be held in France in the summer of 2016 and with a starting field of 24 nations for the first time. However, the long build-up to the tournament began on Sunday at Palais des Congrès Acropolis in Nice with the draw for the qualifying groups. Germany goalkeeping coach Andreas Köpke and 12 other former keepers drew the balls for the eight groups of six teams and a group of five plus hosts France, who will contest Group I to complete the symmetry of the fixture list but are not required to qualify.
The group line-up is as follows, with teams featuring current Bayern internationals in bold:
Group A: Netherlands, Czech Republic, Turkey, Latvia, Iceland, Kazakhstan
Group B: Bosnia-Herzegovina, Belgium, Israel, Wales, Cyprus, Andorra
Group C: Spain, Ukraine, Slovakia, Belarus, Macedonia, Luxembourg
Group D: Germany, Ireland, Poland, Scotland, Georgia, Gibraltar
Group E: England, Switzerland, Slovenia, Estonia, Lithuania, San Marino
Group F: Greece, Hungary, Romania, Finland, Northern Ireland, Faroe Islands
Group G: Russia, Sweden, Austria, Montenegro, Moldova, Liechtenstein
Group H: Italy, Croatia, Norway, Bulgaria, Azerbaijan, Malta
Group I: Portugal, Denmark, Serbia, Armenia, Albania, France
As the starting field for the finals has been increased to 24 teams, the top two in each group and the overall best of the third-placed teams qualify directly for the tournament from 10 June to 10 July 2016. In November 2015 the remaining eight third-placed teams will contest play-offs to determine the last four places at the finals.
The qualifying contest begins on 7 September 2014 and ends on 13 October 2015. The scheduling format has also been amended to incorporate a double round of matches on fixed pairs of days, part of UEFA’s so-called “Week of Football’ concept. Instead of double-headers on Fridays and Tuesdays, matches will now be played on Thursday and Sunday, or Friday and Monday, or Saturday and Tuesday. Weekday kick-offs will generally be at the customary Champions League time of 8.45 pm CET, but weekend matches may also kick off at 6 pm.