Today the nations of Europe learned exactly who they will be up against in trying to qualify for Euro 2016. This time around things are slightly different in many ways. First off, the final tournament in France will feature 24 teams instead of just 16, meaning that many more teams have a chance of qualifying. Also, UEFA’s “Week of Football” initiative will see matches take place on every day between Thursday & Tuesday during the international break – meaning you will have more opportunities than ever before to see other international games instead of just your own country’s matches.
Teams were drawn into 8 groups of 6 and 1 group of 5. France will play along with the group of 5 to provide them with regular games as they have already qualified for Euro 2016 as hosts, but their results will not be included in the group’s table. The winner and runner-up of each group will automatically qualify for Euro 2016, along with the highest-ranked 3rd placed side (based on results between the top 5 teams in their group). The remaining 3rd placed sides will take part in a two-legged playoff, with the winners also getting a berth in the finals.
Scotland have drawn Germany, Republic of Ireland, Poland and Gibraltar. Here are all of the groups in full, with their pot number in brackets:
|Group A||Group B|
|Netherlands (1)||Bosnia-Herzegovina (1)|
|Czech Republic (2)||Belgium (2)|
|Turkey (3)||Israel (3)|
|Latvia (4)||Wales (4)|
|Iceland (5)||Cyprus (5)|
|Kazakhstan (6)||Andorra (6)|
|Group C||Group D|
|Spain (1)||Germany (1)|
|Ukraine (2)||Republic of Ireland (2)|
|Slovakia (3)||Poland (3)|
|Belarus (4)||Scotland (4)|
|FYR Macedonia (5)||Georgia (5)|
|Luxembourg (6)||Gibraltar (6)|
|Group E||Group F|
|England (1)||Greece (1)|
|Switzerland (2)||Hungary (2)|
|Slovenia (3)||Romania (3)|
|Estonia (4)||Finland (4)|
|Lithuania (5)||Northern Ireland (5)|
|San Marino (6)||Faroe Islands (6)|
|Group G||Group H|
|Russia (1)||Italy (1)|
|Sweden (2)||Croatia (2)|
|Austria (3)||Norway (3)|
|Montenegro (4)||Bulgaria (4)|
|Moldova (5)||Azerbaijan (5)|
|Liechtenstein (6)||Malta (6)|
* France have automatically qualified for Euro 2016 as hosts but will play alongside the teams of Group I. Results against France will not count in the table.
Looking at Scotland’s group, I’m still optimistic that we can qualify for Euro 2016. Germany will obviously take one of the automatic qualifying spots, but between ourselves, Ireland and Poland I think the second one is up for grabs. Both Ireland and Poland were the lowest ranked sides in their respective pots, and neither showed much potential towards the end of their 2014 World Cup qualifying campaigns while we did. Making Hampden a fortress will be important, with Germany away being a write-off and trips to Poland and Georgia being tricky tasks. For the Tartan Army it’s almost a perfect draw, with good away days in Germany, Ireland and Gibraltar (who will play their games in Faro, Portugal). All-in-all though, Scotland stand a good chance to finally return to the top table of European football.
Elsewhere, England should be able to qualify with relative ease – with only Switzerland providing anything like a challenge to them winning the group. Wales, depending on the fitness of stars like Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey, could get themselves a play-off spot if they can better the efforts of Israel, in a group likely to be won by Belgium or Bosnia. Qualification for Northern Ireland will be a tough ask with their form of late, but their group is an interesting one with Greece the only team that has qualified for major championships in recent years. With some improvement they could be fighting for third.
Below are Scotland’s fixtures in the campaign, with all times in British time. Hampden Park will be out of action until early 2015 because of works related to hosting the Commonwealth games – so it is likely that the home games versus Georgia and Ireland will take place at either Ibrox or Celtic Park. Venues for away games will be set in due course.
|Sun 7 Sep ’14||Germany v Scotland||7.45pm|
|Sat 11 Oct ’14||Scotland v Georgia||5pm|
|Tue 14 Oct ’14||Poland v Scotland||7.45pm|
|Fri 14 Nov ’14||Scotland v Rep. of Ireland||7.45pm|
|Sun 29 Mar ’15||Scotland v Gibraltar||5pm|
|Sat 13 Jun ’15||Rep. of Ireland v Scotland||5pm|
|Fri 4 Sep ’15||Georgia v Scotland||5pm|
|Mon 7 Sep ’15||Scotland v Germany||7.45pm|
|Thu 8 Oct ’15||Scotland v Poland||7.45pm|
|Sun 11 Oct ’15||Gibraltar v Scotland||7.45pm|
The road to France is a little clearer now for Scotland and the rest of Europe’s football teams. Here’s hoping that Scotland can go the distance this time, instead of breaking down en route.