2019 U21 EURO qualifying: full guide

Qualifying for the 2019 U21 EURO in Italy and San Marino begins on Saturday as Kosovo make their competitive football national-team debut in the Republic of Ireland.

Ireland train ahead of their opener against Kosovo
Ireland train ahead of their opener against Kosovo ©Sportsfile

The 2017 U21 EURO in Poland is not until June but the road to the 2019 UEFA European Under-21 Championship in Italy and San Marino gets under way on Saturday with the first of the qualifiers.

While the first full sets of fixtures are not until the week beginning 31 August, some teams are opening their campaigns now or in June. First up on Saturday are Kosovo, playing their first competitive U21 game, away to the Republic of Ireland in Dublin.

On Monday, Belgium host Malta and the following day Bosnia and Herzegovina face Liechtenstein and Luxembourg take on Kazakhstan. There are 11 more games in June, with finals co-hosts San Marino in action against Belarus and Moldova, while Gibraltar make their U21 debut against Armenia.

How qualifying works
• Italy have a bye to the finals in summer 2019 but co-hosts San Marino must qualify.

• Kosovo and Gibraltar are making debuts among a record 54 teams competing in qualifying.

• The nine group winners qualify automatically for the finals.

• The four runners-up with the best records against the teams first, third, fourth and fifth in their group go into the play-offs where a couple of two-legged ties will decide the last two qualifiers.

The groups

Watch Sweden win the 2015 title
Watch Sweden win the 2015 title

Group 1: Czech Republic*, Croatia, Greece, Moldova, Belarus, San Marino

Group 2: Spain*, Slovakia*, Iceland, Albania, Estonia, Northern Ireland

Group 3: Denmark*, Poland*, Finland, Georgia, Lithuania, Faroe Islands

Group 4: England*, Netherlands, Ukraine, Scotland, Latvia, Andorra

Group 5: Germany*, Israel, Norway, Republic of Ireland, Azerbaijan, Kosovo

Group 6: Sweden*, Belgium, Turkey, Hungary, Cyprus, Malta

Group 7: Serbia*, Austria, Russia, FYR Macedonia*, Armenia, Gibraltar

Group 8: Portugal*, Switzerland, Romania, Wales, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Liechtenstein

Group 9: France, Slovenia, Montenegro, Bulgaria, Kazakhstan, Luxembourg

*Competing at 2017 finals in Poland from 16–30 June along with Italy

Highlights: Five Italy Under-21 stars
Highlights: Five Italy Under-21 stars

Road to Italy and San Marino: match dates
Qualifying group stage

25–28 March 2017
5–13 June 2017
28 August–5 September 2017
2–10 October 2017
6–14 November 2017
19–27 March 2018
3–11 September 2018
8–16 October 2018

Play-offs
12–20 November 2018

Final tournament
16–30 June 2019