UEFA Regions' Cup holders Spain face a mighty task if they are to reach the finals again after being grouped with France and the Republic of Ireland in the draw.
Spanish representatives Vasca triumphed at the 2004/05 UEFA Regions' Cup in Poland, beating Bulgaria's South-West Region-Sofia in the final, but they have it all to do if they are to qualify for the 2006/07 edition from a Group 1 mini-tournament hosted by France.
The draw in Nyon, conducted by UEFA Youth and Amateur Football Committee chairman Jim Boyce and former UEFA Champions League winner Paulo Sousa, divided the 37 nations involved in the blue-riband event for amateur footballers into two separate rounds - two preliminary rounds and eight intermediary ones.
The preliminary rounds, to be contested by eight of the 17 countries in the hat who have never played in the UEFA Regions' Cup finals, are divided - like the rest of the draw - into Central-West and Central-East regional groupings for the sake of convenience.
The winners of the Central-West and Central-East preliminary rounds will qualify for the intermediary round along with the best overall runner-up from the two groups, with the latter taking a place in the Central-West intermediary Group 3 mini-tournament in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Another significant intermediary mini-tournament in the Central-West group will see 2000/01 winners the Czech Republic host England and neighbours Slovakia, as well as the winners of the Central-West preliminary round, in Group 4. The winners of each intermediary group will progress to the final tournament in June 2007.
The Central-East Groups 5-8 have thrown up some eye-catching fixtures too, with Group 8 bringing sides from Italy, Germany, Poland and Malta together, although it has yet to be agreed which of these four nations will stage that mini-tournament.
The 37 nations involved in the 2006/07 UEFA Regions' Cup will nominate representative teams before the mini-tournaments begin. Smaller countries can nominate national sides while larger ones will field regional teams representing the winning clubs in their domestic amateur championships.
"It is a wonderful opportunity for players who would never have dreamt of having the chance to appear on the European stage," Boyce told uefa.com. "UEFA must be commended for introducing this competition. It brings people together and amateur players are given the opportunity to meet people from other countries.
"All the teams in the previous final rounds have told me that they enjoy playing in the tournament," added the president of the Irish Football Association. "Not all of the players will be successful but they will meet and make new friends along the way."
The preliminary round mini-tournaments will be played between 1 August and 30 September 2006. Intermediary round mini-tournaments without sides from the preliminary round will be contested between 1 August and 31 December 2006, with those including preliminary round qualifiers being resolved between 1 October 2006 and 30 April 2007.
|Group Central-East |
|Group 1 |
|Republic of Ireland|
|Group 2 |
|Group 3 |
|Group 4 |
|Winner preliminary round|
|Group 5 |
|Group 6 |
|Serbia and Montenegro|
|Group 7 |
|Winner preliminary round|
|Group 8 |