Qualifying group stage
The record field of 53 nations are drawn into nine groups of five or six teams. Matches are played on a home-and-away basis between 7 September 2014 and 13 October 2015. The nine group winners, the nine group runners-up and the best third-placed side qualify directly for the final tournament. The eight remaining third-placed teams will contest play-offs to determine the last four qualifiers. For the first time, qualifying takes place under the 'Week of Football' concept, with games played from Thursday to Tuesday.
The four sides with the best UEFA national team coefficient ranking will be seeded with a draw determining the pairing and order of home and away ties. The first legs will be played on 12, 13 and 14 November 2015 and the returns on 15, 16 and 17 November. The teams which score the greater aggregate of goals in each tie qualify for the finals, with away goals and then penalties used to determine the winner in the event of a draw.
France will join 23 qualifiers in the final tournament draw, with the teams drawn into six groups of four teams. The top two and the four best third-placed teams advancing to the round of 16 when it becomes a knockout competition.
Further details, including the criteria for separating teams that finish level on points in a group, or after extra time in a match, can be found in the official competition regulations.
For the first time, 24 sides will contest the UEFA European Championship when it takes place between between 10 June and 10 July 2016.
The inaugural final tournament in France in 1960 was a four-team affair, involving four matches played over five days at two venues. For UEFA EURO 2016, France's third finals having won on home turf in 1984, 24 sides will contest 51 games over 32 days at ten venues – in Bordeaux, Lens, Lille, Lyon, Marseille, Nice, Paris, Saint-Denis, Saint-Etienne and Toulouse.
As hosts, France have an automatic spot and they will be joined by 23 qualifiers. The teams will be drawn into groups of four, with the six group winners, six group runners-up and the four best third-placed teams advancing to the round of 16 when it becomes a knockout competition with the potential routes to the final mapped out here (see p16).
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