On the heels of the draw for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, the qualification pots were revealed on Jan. 24 for the UEFA EURO 2016 tournament in France, according to UEFA.com.
Both defending champion Spain and host France will be drawn from the first pot along with the other top European seeds, which were determined based upon their results in the 2010 World Cup, 2010-12 UEFA European Football Championship and 2014 World Cup qualifiers.
There are five additional pots of teams with a grand total of 53 nations competing for 23 spots in the UEFA EURO 2016 tournament. Here is a look at how the pots break down:
|Pot 1||Pot 2||Pot 3||Pot 4||Pot 5||Pot 6|
|Greece||Czech Republic||Romania||Bulgaria||Azerbaijan||San Marino|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||Republic of Ireland||Poland||Belarus||Cyprus|
Per UEFA.com, There will be eight groups of six teams and one group of five, the latter of which will include France. The top two teams from each group will automatically qualify for EURO 2016 as will the third-place team with the best record against the first, second, fourth and fifth-place squads in their group. The remaining third-place teams will compete for the final four berths in playoffs.
France's involvement is certainly confusing to some since the hosts automatically qualify, but according to Sky Sports News, all of their qualifying matches will amount to little more than friendlies.
UEFA change the rules for Euro 2016 - hosts France will play qualifiers but there'll be no points at stake in their games! Details #SSN— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) January 23, 2014
That will allow the French team to remain in form, but it should make for a strange dynamic since the other 52 teams will be fighting for their EURO lives in every match.
It has also been announced that the qualifiers will be played under a new "Week of Football" format, which will spread the matches over six days rather than packing them all into one or two days as has traditionally been the case. According to UEFA.com, UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino believes that it will be a great format for soccer fans especially.
Supporters will get the chance to attend and watch more national team matches than ever before. Broadcasters will get more games and more appointments to view. National associations will a consistent schedule and stable revenue. And national team football will get greater exposure than before. This is great news for football fans and for football.
UEFA is clearly taking steps to make EURO 2016 more innovative than its predecessors, and it will be interesting to see how much the fans embrace it.
Regardless of the rules and format, though, there will be plenty of great action to enjoy with top teams such as Spain, France, Germany, England, Netherlands, Italy, Portugal and many more looking to earn the title of best team in Europe.
Qualifying from September 2014 through October 2015 will be the first step toward deciding that.
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