The road to UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2009™ in Finland starts on Monday 9 October with the draw for the newly-introduced preliminary round at 14.00 CET in Nyon.
A record 46 nations have entered the competition and, unlike in recent editions, every team has a chance of competing in the finals, rather than the former system of two 'divisions', with the lower-ranked teams competing for promotion to the main championship level. However, instead there will now be two rounds of qualifying, with 20 nations entering in the preliminary round hoping to join the top 25 in the main group stage.
Trio make bow
Among the teams in the preliminary round are Azerbaijan, Luxembourg and F.Y.R. Macedonia, all taking part in a major senior women's national team competition for the first time. The 20 teams will be formed into five four-nation mini-tournaments to be played in one venue from 18-23 November, with the winners progressing to the group stage draw on 13 December.
The 30 remaining hopefuls, including holders and top seeds Germany, will then compete for eleven places in Finland, with the final tournament now expanded from eight to 12 nations. Six groups of five sides will be formed with the pools played in a conventional home-and-away basis, the group winners qualifying and the runners-up and four best third-placed teams then drawn into five play-offs for the remaining berths in October 2008.
Slovenia step up
Full details of the preliminary round draw, including seedings, will be announced next week. However, Slovenia have been rewarded for winning all six of their matches in the non-qualifying 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup Group 6 as they have been promoted to the list of teams that will avoid the preliminary round, taking the place of Finland who qualify automatically. Of the other teams in the leading group, Belarus, the Republic of Ireland, Austria and Greece have also moved up since competing at the second level in UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2005™.
Nations entering in preliminary round:
Wales, Israel, Romania, Slovakia, Croatia, Northern Ireland, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Estonia, Kazakhstan, Malta, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Faroe Islands, Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, F.Y.R. Macedonia, Turkey
Nations entering in group stage:
Germany (holders), Sweden, Norway, Denmark, England, France; Russia, Italy, Czech Republic, Iceland, Ukraine, Netherlands; Spain, Scotland, Poland, Serbia, Switzerland, Hungary; Belgium, Portugal, Belarus, Republic of Ireland, Austria, Greece; Slovenia
Qualified for finals as hosts:
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