The first qualifiers for UEFA Futsal EURO 2014 in Antwerp, Belgium, are played on Wednesday when the preliminary round begins.
In all, 22 teams will compete in six mini-tournaments with the six winners progressing to join the 22 top-ranked sides in March's main round of qualification. Among the nations involved are four making competition debuts: Denmark, Gibraltar, Sweden (who played their first two internationals in December, losing both to France in Gothenburg) and Wales.
Five of the groups, including the four featuring the debutants, kick off on Wednesday with teams hoping to emulate the feat of Turkey, who made it to the 2012 finals having started in the preliminary round. Group E in Andorra, which also contains Israel, Estonia and Sweden, has a particular incentive with the winners advancing to main round Group 4 staged by Spain, victors at the last four Futsal EUROs.
The last section to begin and end, Group C, running from Friday to Sunday, could be the closest: hosts Lithuania, Cyprus and England all have high hopes of earning main-round meetings with Ukraine, Slovenia and Turkey, all of whom participated at UEFA Futsal EURO 2012 in Croatia.
After the main round, taking place between 27 and 30 March, the seven group winners will proceed to join hosts Belgium in the final tournament. The seven runners-up plus the best third-placed country will contest the play-offs on 17 and 24 September. The winners of these four two-legged ties will complete the 12-team lineup for the finals in Antwerp from 28 January to 8 February 2014.
Group A: France*, Montenegro, San Marino, Gibraltar**
Group B: Moldova, Georgia, Malta*
Group C: Lithuania*, Cyprus, England
Group D: Greece, Bulgaria*, Armenia, Wales
Group E: Israel, Andorra*, Estonia, Sweden
Group F: Albania, Norway, Switzerland*, Denmark
Main round (27–30 March)
Group 1: Italy*, Hungary, Finland, Winner Group A
Group 2: Azerbaijan, Slovakia*, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Winner Group F
Group 3: Russia, Romania, Kazakhstan, Latvia*
Group 4: Spain*, Croatia, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Winner Group E
Group 5: Portugal, Serbia*, Poland, Winner Group D
Group 6: Czech Republic, Belarus, Netherlands*, Winner Group B
Group 7: Ukraine, Slovenia, Turkey*, Winner Group C
** The UEFA Executive Committee admitted Gibraltar as a provisional member of UEFA on 1 October 2012. This follows a ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in August 2011. A decision on the admission of the Gibraltar Football Association (GFA) as a full member of UEFA will be taken by the XXXVII Ordinary UEFA Congress in London in May 2013. As per a UEFA Executive Committee decision, Spain and Gibraltar could not be drawn in the same group (so the winners of Gibraltar's preliminary round group could not be drawn in Spain's main round group).
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