Football

The groups

BACK TO WORK: Germany’s World Cup winners like Thomas Mueller (right) and Benedikt Hoewedes (left) have to face tiny Gibraltar in Group D. PHOTO: AFP

GROUP A

  • Holland, Czech Republic, Turkey, Iceland, Kazakhstan, Latvia

After finishing third at the World Cup, Holland have a new coach, with newly-appointed Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal being replaced by Guus Hiddink, back for a second spell in charge.

The second automatic qualifying berth should be contested by Euro'96 winners the Czech Republic and Turkey, although Iceland will again hope to upset the odds after reaching the play-offs for the Brazil World Cup.

GROUP B

  • Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Wales, Cyprus, Israel, Andorra

World Cup quarter-finalists Belgium have a young team who should reach their peak in Euro 2016. Marc Wilmots' team are unlikely, therefore, to be troubled in qualifying from Group B.

Bosnia and Herzegovina still have plenty of potential to fulfil after appearing at a major tournament for the first time in Brazil. Wales also harbour hope of a first major Finals appearance since 1958 with a mediocre team bolstered by the quality of Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey.

GROUP C

  • Spain, Ukraine, Slovakia, Belarus, Macedonia, Luxembourg

Defending two-time European champions Spain are eager to bounce back from their poor showing in Brazil, when their defence of the trophy ended in the group stage.

Vicente del Bosque's new-look side should qualify from a group where their biggest challenge will come from Ukraine, who reached the World Cup play-offs. Slovakia could also challenge while Belarus and Macedonia are hoping to reach a major tournament for the first time.

GROUP D

  • Germany, Scotland, Poland, Republic of Ireland, Georgia, Gibraltar

The most intriguing group of all, containing world champions Germany and tiny Gibraltar, appearing in a qualifying tournament for the first time since becoming Uefa members last year. In addition, Poland, the Republic of Ireland under new manager Martin O'Neill, Scotland and even Temuri Ketsbaia's Georgia are all capable of qualifying automatically for the Finals.

GROUP E

  • England, Switzerland, Slovenia, San Marino, Estonia, Lithuania

Despite their abject performance at the World Cup, Roy Hodgson's England should still have too much for their rivals.

Nevertheless, Switzerland, who reached the last 16 in Brazil, are genuine contenders to top the group even if veteran coach Ottmar Hitzfeld has retired, with Bosnian Vladimir Petkovic now in charge. Slovenia are the most likely of the other teams to compete in a group containing the world's 208th and last-ranked team, San Marino.

GROUP F

  • Greece, Romania, Hungary, Northen Ireland, Finland, Faroe Islands

Greece, after a last-16 outing in Brazil, will be the favourites with hopes that their new coach, Italian Claudio Ranieri, might make them a slightly more entertaining team to watch than the dour, defensive sides of the recent past.

They will come up against Romania, whom they defeated in the World Cup play-offs. Hungary and Northern Ireland are hoping to reach a major tournament for the first time since 1986 and Finland are chasing a first-ever Finals.

GROUP G

  • Russia, Sweden, Austria, Montenegro, Moldova, Liechtenstein

Fabio Capello must justify his astronomical salary and lead Russia to Euro 2016 in convincing fashion after their group-stage exit at the World Cup, while building a side with one eye on the 2018 World Cup on home soil.

Erik Hamren's Sweden, determined to bounce back from missing the World Cup and, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic preparing for one last crack at a major tournament, will be their main challengers. Austria and Montenegro are the dark horses.

GROUP H

  • Italy, Croatia, Norway, Bulgaria, Azerbaijan, Malta

Antonio Conte will hope to enjoy a relatively trouble-free first qualifying campaign in charge of Italy, although the Azzurri rarely set the heather on fire in such competitions.

And Group H could be one of the toughest around, with Croatia boasting some world-class talent and both Norway and Bulgaria eager to impress. Azerbaijan, coached by German Berti Vogts, should struggle alongside Malta.

GROUP I

  • Portugal, Denmark, Serbia, Albania, Armenia

Portugal are the favourites in the only five-team group, in which France will also play although their results will not be taken into account as they have already qualified as hosts.

Denmark, who missed out on the World Cup, are still coached by veteran Morten Olsen, while Serbia have a new man in charge after Sinisa Mihajlovic was replaced by vastly experienced Dutchman Dick Advocaat. 
- AFP.