EURO 2016 Qualifying Groups and New Format Announced

The draw for the qualifying groups for the 2016 European Championships were held on Sunday in Nice with Germany receiving a quite favorable result.  For the first time 24 teams will participate in the finals instead of the usual 16.  First and second will qualify out of the group with the best third placed team as well. The rest of the best third placed teams will play it out in a playoff.

The Groups

Group A
Netherlands, Czech Republic, Turkey, Latvia, Iceland, Kazakhstan

Group B
Bosnia and Herzegovina, Belgium, Israel, Wales, Cyprus, Andorra

Group C
Spain, Ukraine, Slovakia, Belarus, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Luxembourg

Group D
Germany, Republic of 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

Bye to finals (hosts): France

Unlike past tournaments, this edition, along the familiar group stage format, will fall under a slightly new process and schedule, as explained below by uefa.com:

The European Qualifiers are made up of eight groups of six teams and one of five, who contest home and away fixtures. The nine section winners, the nine runners-up and the best third-placed side will qualify directly for the final tournament. The eight remaining third-placed countries will contest play-offs to determine the last four qualifiers for the 24-nation finals.

For the first time, qualifying takes place under the new Week of Football concept, in which games are played from Thursday to Tuesday. France are assured of their place in the final tournament, but will play centralised friendlies in accordance with the Week of Football schedule against those in the five-team qualifying pool: Portugal, Denmark, Serbia, Armenia and Albania.

Reactions (courtesy of uefa.com)

Joachim Löw (Germany coach): “From a sporting point of view it is an interesting group, with Germany, Georgia, Scotland, Ireland and Poland. It’s an even group, and from the atmosphere point of view, a good group. There are some Polish players playing in the Bundesliga, and then with Scotland or Ireland, wherever you play there is always a great atmosphere. So I think it is an interesting group. We don’t necessarily want to say [Germany are favourites] but of course everybody is saying that. We always hope to win the group in all the qualification competitions we take part in, to qualify directly and set things straight immediately.

[Scotland and Ireland] play a lot with their hearts, and are very dynamic and passionate. They play for their country and they know how to fight; even if they are 2-0 down, they never give up. That makes it difficult, and they are always very intense matches, where you have to go to your limit to manage to beat them. I actually don’t know much about Gibraltar and their team. It’s their first time participating. They play in Faro in Portugal, I think, and we are excited to see what will happen against them.”

Martin O’Neill (Ireland manager): “It’s a difficult group but exciting nevertheless. The matches against Scotland will be great occasions and I’m sure Gordon Strachan will be as excited as I am. It’s great, it’s tough – there’s other groups we might have preferred to be in but let’s get on with it. Germany you would say are the outstanding side in the group but there’s plenty to fight for. Let’s go positively into the group, and let’s go for it. It looks like a group, Germany apart, where teams might take points off each other, so it’ll be interesting right to the end. It’s utopia to get to the final – particularly out of this group.”

Adam Nawałka (Poland coach): “It’s not my group of dreams. My first thought is that of course Germany are the favourites, but other teams have equal chances to qualify. It is interesting that we will fight to reach the EURO 2016 finals with teams we will face in upcoming friendlies, against Scotland in March and Germany in May, while a few months ago we had a friendly against Ireland, so we will know each other quite well. The most important thing is to believe in ourselves and work hard. Logistically we are already prepared for this qualification. Now it is time to prepare ourselves on the football side.”

Gordon Strachan (Scotland manager): “Every tie there’s something in it – Germany are one of the best teams in the world, so it is exciting. It should excite anybody; anybody who supports Scotland, it’s a terrific, terrific draw. I’ve just seen Martin O’Neill and they’re excited as well, but we’re competitive; we’re friendly just now but the gloves will come off. You never know how it’s going to fluctuate over the next couple of years with form, injuries. If we can keep everybody fit we’ve got a chance. If we can keep our momentum going that would be great but we know there’ll be games that will disappoint us and we’ll have to deal with that. It must be great for the players to sit there just now and think ‘I would love to play in that game and that game, that will be a great game,’ so there’s games to test the players. I think if we play to the level we can play and where we want to go to, we can definitely qualify.”

Allen Bula (Gibraltar coach): “It’s definitely been a long road [to get here]. Finally here, it looked a bit surreal, but now it’s reality. I did get one of my wishes: I got Germany. From the very earlier stages leading up to the EURO qualifying draw I always had this feeling we’d meet them, and for it to actually happen is fantastic for Gibraltar. We’re in a very tough group, but whichever one we got was going to be tough. But it’s great, playing against Germany, such a big nation in football, and then we’ve got the likes of Republic of Ireland and Scotland. So we’re just over the moon about it. Now we’ve seen the group and probably reality has hit everyone back in Gibraltar, we need to work extra hard, because we’re coming up against giants, and we need to be very competitive. We need to show Europe that we deserve to be here and that we can give some scares along the way. Basically it will be very, very hard work, and we’re definitely going out to try and make some points.”

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Cristian Nyari

Cristian is a football writer and analyst living in New York City, fascinated with the history and study of the beautiful game and all it entails. Follow Cristian on twitter @Cnyari

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