European champions Spain must negotiate a tough group including the Czech Republic if they are to defend their title in Poland and Ukraine after Sunday's UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying draw in Warsaw.
Vicente del Bosque's team will have to overcome the Czechs, Scotland, Lithuania and Liechtenstein in Group I in order to reach the 2012 finals and retain a trophy they claimed in Vienna 18 months ago. Runners-up Germany, the three-time tournament winners, are in Group A alongside neighbours Austria, Belgium, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and the side they beat in a dramatic UEFA EURO 2008 semi-final, Turkey.
Italy will attempt to regain the FIFA World Cup crown in South Africa this summer, accompanied by 12 other European nations, and their task beyond that is Group C, a section including Serbia and Slovenia. England, the surprise absentees from UEFA EURO 2008, will aim to put that right in Group G against Switzerland, Bulgaria, Wales and Montenegro. One of three pools of five teams, theirs is the only group in the draw that does not feature a former UEFA European Championship winner.
Fifty-one countries participated in the draw, which was conducted by four famous names from Polish and Ukrainian football: Andriy Shevchenko, Andrzej Szarmach, Oleg Blokhin and Zbigniew Boniek. The groups will be contested according to a league system on a home-and-away basis, with games scheduled between September 2010 and October 2011.
The nine winners and the runner-up with the best record against the top five sides in their pool qualify directly for the final tournament, the last before the championship is expanded to 24 teams. The eight remaining runners-up go into play-off matches in November 2011 to decide the final four sides to join co-hosts Poland and Ukraine.
UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying draw
|Republic of Ireland|
|Bye to finals (hosts)|