Hosts France could play in the qualifiers for Euro 2016 but their games won't count
Uefa have come up with an unusual set up for the upcoming tournament...
While the 2014 World Cup is obviously the main focus of international football this year, many of us, especially Irish fans, are also looking forward to the Euro 2016 qualifiers. The draw for the groups is next month with the games scheduled to start in August.
The 2016 jamboree will be played in France, and as hosts they naturally qualify for the tournament. But in a document circulated by Uefa on the 2016 tournament, reported in the Telegraph tonight, they may yet be playing in the qualifiers.
With 54 teams in Uefa, normally you would have eight groups of six and a ninth group with five teams. That ninth group could now have France added to it, but their games will not be competitive so the results won't count towards qualification.
The idea has been floated so that the host country has a stream of guaranteed friendlies, against European teams, in the lead up to the tournament. It is reported that Poland and Ukraine struggled to get access to European opponents while they waited to host the 2012 event.
Of course, with Frenchman Michel Platini in charge, some have suggested this is favouritism for France but it will at least ensure that every team will play in every round.
More details are expected to be discussed at a Uefa meting next week, where the proposed Nations League idea will also get another airing.
Thanks to Mark McGuigan for the heads up on this