Nice, France: Spain will start their campaign for a third successive Uefa European Championship in qualifying Group C along with Ukraine, Slovakia, Belarus, Macedonia and Luxembourg following the draw on Sunday.
Spain, the world champions who lifted the Euro 2012 trophy in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, have never lost to any of those teams and will be strong favourites to top the standings, though their coach Vicente del Bosque reacted cautiously.
“The group is not as easy as it might look. Some of them are young teams and emerging football powers,” Del Bosque said on the national team’s official website (www.sefutbol.com) “The cold could be a factor in the group because a lot of the trips will be to countries in eastern Europe.
“Ukraine could be the most dangerous opponent and we hope the political situation the country is going through now will not affect the football and is resolved as soon as possible.”
Italy, runners-up to Spain in 2012, will meet Croatia, Norway, Bulgaria, Azerbaijan and Malta in Group H.
Gibraltar, Uefa’s newest association, will face Germany, Ireland, Poland, Scotland and Georgia. They were originally drawn in the same group as Spain but moved to another one because of political tensions between the two countries.
Group A looks to be one of the toughest with the Netherlands taking on the Czech Republic, Turkey, Latvia, Iceland and Kazakhstan.
England coach Roy Hodgson will face Switzerland, a team he used to manage, Slovenia, Estonia, Lithuania and San Marino in Group E.
“I am very satisfied with the draw, especially for the fans,” Hodgson told Sky Sports. “The name Switzerland always brings a smile to my face because I had four very good years there. They are a good team and it’s a very good place to play.”
World player of the year Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal were drawn in Group I along with Denmark, Serbia, Armenia and Albania.
The nine group winners and runners-up will qualify automatically for the Euro 2016 finals, along with the best third-placed team. The eight other third-placed teams will meet in play-offs to decide the final four teams to take part in the finals in France.
The qualifying competition, which lasts for 13 months, begins in September.
EURO 2016 QUALIFYING