Holders Italy will play Bulgaria, the Republic of Ireland, Cyprus, Georgia and Montenegro as they begin the defence of the trophy they won in Berlin last summer following today's draw for the 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifying competition in Durban, South Africa.
The team the Azzurri defeated in the 2006 World Cup final, France, are in Group 7 along with Romania, Serbia, Lithuania, Austria and the Faroe Islands. Three-time winners Germany are the top seeds in Group 4, which also includes Russia, Finland, Wales, Azerbaijan and Liechtenstein, while Group 6 reunites Croatia and England – who met in UEFA EURO 2008™ qualifying, with the former winning both matches to eliminate their opponents – and also includes Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Andorra.
In Group 1 Portugal are joined by Sweden and Denmark – who also met in UEFA EURO 2008™ qualifying – as well as Hungary, Albania and Malta. European champions Greece are joined by Switzerland in Group 2, which also includes Israel, Moldova, Latvia and Luxembourg, and Group 3 includes the Czech Republic, Poland, Northern Ireland, Slovakia, Slovenia and San Marino. Group 9 comprises only five teams compared to six for the eight other sections, with the Netherlands joined by Scotland, Norway, F.Y.R. Macedonia and Iceland.
Fifty-three countries participated in the draw, which was conducted by the FIFA general secretary Jérôme Valcke with assistance from Christian Karembeu – who was in the France squad that won the World Cup in 1998 and also triumphed at the UEFA European Championship two years later – and Abédi Pelé, part of the Olympique de Marseille team that won the UEFA Champions League in 1993. The groups will be contested in a league system on a home-and-away basis, with the games to be played according to the international match calendar starting in August 2008. The nine group winners will advance to the final tournament, while the eight best runners-up will contest four play-off matches in November 2009 to determine Europe's other four finalists.
|2010 FIFA World Cup qualifying draw
|Republic of Ireland|