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UEFA Women's EURO qualifying groups begin

The qualifying group stage has begun with, for the first time, 15 places on offer in the expanded finals in the Netherlands. UEFA.com looks at the groups.

Silvia Neid will hand over the Germany reins to Steffi Jones duing qualifying
Silvia Neid will hand over the Germany reins to Steffi Jones duing qualifying ©Getty Images

• The qualifying group stage runs from Thursday until 20 September 2016.
• The group winners and the six best runners-up will join hosts the Netherlands in the final tournament in July/August 2017.
• The other two runners-up will play off from 17–25 October 2016 (after a draw on 23 September) for the remaining berth in the expanded 16-team finals.

The groups
Group 1: Iceland, Scotland, Belarus, Slovenia, FYR Macedonia
• Iceland, chasing a third straight qualification, open on 22 September at home to Belarus.
• The same day Scotland, pipped narrowly in the last two play-offs, visit Slovenia.
• FYR Macedonia get under way at home to Iceland on 22 October.

Group 2: Spain, Finland, Republic of Ireland, Portugal, Montenegro
• Spain must wait until 27 October to start their first campaign since the 1980s under a coach other than Ignacio Quereda, as Jorge Vilda takes charge in Finland, who also qualified in 2013.
• Finland play in both September games, welcoming Montenegro to 2009 finals venue Turku on Thursday then five days later going to the Republic of Ireland.
• Portugal's curtain-raiser is at home to Ireland on 27 October with both nations having ambitions to challenge the top two seeds.

France last failed to win a qualifier in 2007
France last failed to win a qualifier in 2007©AFP/Getty Images

Group 3: France, Ukraine, Romania, Greece, Albania
• France, quarter-finalists in 2013 and again at the FIFA Women's World Cup this summer, face Romania on 22 September, hoping to launch a fourth straight perfect competitive qualification campaign. In all, they are on a run of 33 consecutive qualifying wins.
• The other contenders, including 2009 qualifiers Ukraine and competition debutants Albania, all begin in October.

Group 4: Sweden, Denmark, Poland, Slovakia, Moldova
• Sweden, the 1984 winners who reached the semis on home soil in 2013, feature in both September matches as they travel to preliminary round winners Moldova on Thursday and five days later welcome Poland to Gothenburg.
• Denmark, the surprise 2013 semi-finalists, open against Moldova on 22 October, when Slovakia are in Poland.

Group 5: Germany (holders), Russia, Hungary, Turkey, Croatia
• Germany are bidding for a seventh straight European title in a campaign notable not just for the absences of the retired Nadine Angerer and Célia Šašić, but because Steffi Jones will succeed coach Silvia Neid after the 2016 Olympics. They entertain Hungary in Halle on Friday then visit Croatia four days later.
• Russia, who start away to Germany on 22 October, are on a sequence of four UEFA Women's EURO finals appearances in five editions but will hope to avoid their fate in their first 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup qualifier, when they lost 9-0 in Cottbus.
• Turkey begin against Croatia on Thursday.

Group 6:  Italy, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Northern Ireland, Georgia
• Italy have never failed to make the last eight of a UEFA Women's EURO and get under way at home against Georgia on Friday.
• Switzerland, who got to the World Cup last 16 in their maiden final tournament, will seek to qualify for their first UEFA Women's EURO and start with their toughest game in Italy on 24 October.
• The Czech Republic open on 22 September in Georgia, who came through the preliminary round and play Northern Ireland on 24 October.

World Cup medallists England
World Cup medallists England©AFP

Group 7: England, Belgium, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Estonia
• England finished as the best European team at the World Cup, beating Germany for bronze, and begin in Estonia on 21 September in their first UEFA Women's EURO campaign without Hope Powell as player or manager.
• On Thursday, Estonia take on Serbia while on 22 September, Belgium face Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Group 8: Norway, Austria, Wales, Israel, Kazakhstan
• Two-time champions Norway were runners-up in Sweden in 2013 and now commence life under new coach Roger Finjord following Even Pellerud's resignation. They journey to Kazakhstan on 22 September.
• Austria contested the 2013 play-offs and are in Kazakhstan on 17 September before five days later hosting another side who impressed in recent campaigns – Wales, now coached by former player Jayne Ludlow.
• Israel's first match is at home to Kazakhstan on 22 October.