France will be included in next month’s draw for the 2016 European Championships, despite being hosts.
Tournament organisers UEFA have confirmed that 54 members nations, including newly inducted Gibraltar, will be drawn into eight groups of six teams and one group of five.
Then, in a change to regulation, tournament hosts France will be added to the group of five and will play those teams home and away in friendlies over the course of qualifying. Results in these friendlies will have no bearing on that group’s outcome.
Euro 2016 will see the competition finals expanded to 24 teams, with the top two teams from each qualifying group and the best third-placed side reaching the competition proper automatically and those third in their group entering a play-off round.
UEFA, who will today confirm the pots for the qualifying draw to be held in Nice on February 23, have recently also revealed plans to schedule qualifying matches across a ‘Week of Football’.
Rather than set nights of Friday and Tuesday for all games to be played, they will be spread across nights from Thursday to Tuesday, with nations set for two games across a particular round playing either Thursday/Sunday, Friday/Monday or Saturday/Tuesday.
UEFA’s qualifying pots are not based on FIFA World Rankings but on UEFA co-efficient. Italy are expected to make Pot 1, meaning they would most likely avoid the likes of Spain, Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, England and Germany.
Qualifying is scheduled to begin on September 7-9, 2014 and run through to October 11-13, 2015.
Anticipated draw pots
Pot 1: Bosnia-Herzegovina, England, Germany, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, Spain
Pot 2: Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Republic of Ireland, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine
Pot 3: Austria, Israel, Montenegro, Norway, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Turkey
Pot 4: Armenia, Belarus, Bulgaria, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Poland, Scotland, Wales
Pot 5: Albania, Azerbaijan, Cyprus, Georgia, Iceland, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Northern Ireland
Pot 6: Andorra, Faroe Islands, Gibraltar, Kazakhstan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, San Marino