Euro 2016: Hosts France to take part in qualifying - but no points will be awarded
The games involving Les Bleus will be classed as friendlies
Thursday 23 January 2014
England could face tournament hosts France in their Euro 2016 qualifying group under a radical rule change from UEFA.
France will be the first host nation to take part in a European Championships qualification phase.
Les Bleus will retain automatic tournament qualification, with their group-stage contests serving as friendlies where no points will be awarded.
The regulation shift means France will be added to the group-stage draw, creating nine pools of six teams. Previous competitions have had eight pools of six teams and one comprising five.
UEFA will confirm the six seeding pots on Friday, ahead of the pool-stage draw in Nice on February 23.
UEFA's new rule is outlined in Euro 2016 regulation article 21.02, which reads: "The teams drawn into the group of five teams will have France added to their group for the purpose of playing centralised friendlies."
England could face star-studded Belgium, Martin O'Neill's Republic of Ireland or even familiar opponents Croatia or Sweden, should they fall into top-tier Pot 1 as expected.
UEFA will confirm the seeding positions after their two-day executive committee meeting in Nyon, Switzerland.
Roy Hodgson's England should be named among the top seeds courtesy of their unbeaten record in securing automatic qualification for World Cup 2014.
Croatia, who blocked England's qualification to Euro 2008, could face England again, if they end up in Pot 2 as expected.
Home and away qualifying ties against manager O'Neill and assistant Roy Keane's Ireland would be bound to stir a few souls.
Ireland would certainly relish an opportunity at a scalp as they seek to capitalise on the good feeling generated by their new taskmaster management duo.
England though, could be forgiven for being more concerned about the prospect of facing Belgium.
Chelsea's Everton loanee Romelu Lukaku and Stamford Bridge playmaker Eden Hazard are the tip of an increasingly accomplished iceberg for the Belgians, led by Manchester City talisman Vincent Kompany.
Gibraltar, accepted as a separate UEFA member state after winning a court of arbitration in sport ruling, will be among the countries in the draw for the first time.
It is understood UEFA will aim to keep Gibraltar and Spain apart in the qualifying draw, the fixture among those the governing body aim to avoid due to political sensitivity.
Latest in Sport
How Liverpool can catch Manchester United and secure Champions League football next season
Arsenal transfer news: Tomas Rosicky and Mathieu Flamini set for showdown summer talks over future
Arsenal transfer news: Arsene Wenger reveals: 'We are not close to signing anybody. We need to lose some players'
Danny Jones: Keighley Cougars half-back dies after cardiac arrest during league game
Chelsea season player ratings: Grading the entire squad of the new Premier League champions
- 2 How the language you speak changes your view of the world
- 3 Russell Brand backs Ed Miliband: 'You gotta vote Labour'
- 4 General Election 2015: 14-year-old boy asks Nick Clegg – 'can you kill Katie Hopkins?'
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: SNP and its activists 'openly racist' towards the English, Farage says
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils