Holders Spain will be one of nine top seeds for the UEFA EURO 2016 qualifying draw in Nice on 23 February, with 53 teams split into six pots that will eventually form nine groups – eight of six countries and one of five.
The sides aiming to join hosts France in the finals, including debutants Gibraltar, have been divided into seeding pots based on their UEFA national team coefficients (taking into account results from the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the 2010–12 UEFA European Football Championship and 2014 World Cup qualifying). Five pots contain nine teams and the sixth comprises the eight bottom-ranked nations.
Pot 1, featuring Spain and fellow top seeds Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, England, Portugal, Greece, Russia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, will be drawn first, with these sides being allocated to the groups in alphabetical order – from Group A to the five-team Group I. For television rights reasons, England, Germany, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands must be in six-team sections.
The eight sides in Pot 6 will then be drawn for Groups A–H, with Pots 5 to 2 being drawn next in reverse numerical order. France will be partnered with the five-team group, which will enable the 2016 tournament hosts to play friendlies against these countries on their 'spare' dates.
There are no restrictions on the draw other than seeding, though for political reasons the UEFA Executive Committee has ruled that Azerbaijan cannot meet Armenia, and Spain cannot play Gibraltar.
The top two teams in each group will qualify for the finals in France along with the third-placed side with the best record against the nations first, second, fourth and fifth in their pool. The remaining eight third-placed teams will play off in November 2015 for the remaining four berths.
Pot 1: Spain (holders), Germany, Netherlands, Italy, England, Portugal, Greece, Russia, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Pot 2: Ukraine, Croatia, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, Belgium, Czech Republic, Hungary, Republic of Ireland
Pot 3: Serbia, Turkey, Slovenia, Israel, Norway, Slovakia, Romania, Austria, Poland
Pot 4: Montenegro, Armenia, Scotland, Finland, Latvia, Wales, Bulgaria, Estonia, Belarus
Pot 5: Iceland, Northern Ireland, Albania, Lithuania, Moldova, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Cyprus
Pot 6: Luxembourg, Kazakhstan, Liechtenstein, Faroe Islands, Malta, Andorra, San Marino, Gibraltar
The European Qualifiers will run from September 2014 to October 2015; the fixture list will be published by UEFA following the draw. For the first time, qualifying takes place under the new 'Week of Football' concept, which sees games played from Thursday to Tuesday. Kick-off times will be set mainly at 18.00CET and 20.45CET on Saturdays and Sundays and 20.45CET for Thursdays, Fridays, Mondays and Tuesdays. On double-header matchweeks, teams play on Thursday/Sunday, Friday/Monday or Saturday/Tuesday.
UEFA EURO 2016/European Qualifiers calendar
Matchday 1: 7–9 September 2014
Matchday 2: 9–11 October 2014
Matchday 3: 12–14 October 2014
Matchday 4: 14–16 November 2014
Matchday 5: 27–29 March 2015
Matchday 6: 12–14 June 2015
Matchday 7: 3–5 September 2015
Matchday 8: 6–8 September 2015
Matchday 9: 8–10 October 2015
Matchday 10: 11–13 October 2015
Play-off first leg: 12–14 November 2015
Play-off second leg: 15–17 November 2015
Final tournament draw: 12 December 2015
Final tournament (France): 10 June–10 July 2016
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