France added to Euro 2016 qualifying draw as seeds are announced

The hosts will be included in Group I of the draw in order to play centralised friendlies while the rest of the continent battles for a place in the finals
France are to be added to the Euro 2016 qualifying set-up in a revolutionary move announced on Friday.

Les Bleus will still qualify automatically as the tournament's hosts, but they will be added to the five-team Group I after the draw's completion in order to present them with a standardised fixture list. The move means that Didier Deschamps' side will play home and away matches against one of the nine top seeds.

The decision comes in the wake of previous host countries in both the European Championship and World Cup having found it difficult to source competitive friendly fixtures. It also means that the reduction in international dates does not reduce France's hopes of attracting high-profile friendlies. As a result of Uefa's decision, France will get to play matches against countries in the middle of their own qualifying battle.

Meanwhile, the seeds have been announced for the qualifying draw, with Spain automatically added to Pot 1 as title holders. They are joined by Germany, Netherlands, Italy, England, Portugal, Greece, Russia and Bosnia & Herzegovina.

The top two teams in each of the nine groups after the end of regular qualifying will advance to the finals, with the best third-placed team also progressing. The remaining eight third-placed teams will then be paired off into four play-off fixtures, with the winners of each being added to the finals draw.

In another new step, each round of qualifying fixtures will be spread over a three-day period, meaning full international weeks will include six consecutive days of qualifiers. The first round of qualifying is due to be played from September 7-9.

The draw for the qualifying stage will take place in Nyon on February 23, and will include Gibraltar for the first time since gaining full Fifa membership.

Spain Ukraine Serbia
Germany Croatia Turkey
Netherlands Sweden Slovenia
Italy Denmark Israel
England Switzerland Norway
Portugal Belgium Slovakia
Greece Czech Republic Romania
Russia Hungary Austria
Bosnia-Herzegovina Republic of Ireland Poland
Montenegro Iceland Luxembourg
Armenia Northern Ireland Kazakhstan
Scotland Albania Liechtenstein
Finland Lithuania Faroe Islands
Latvia Moldova Malta
Wales Macedonia Andorra
Bulgaria Azerbaijan San Marino
Estonia Georgia Gibraltar
Belarus Cyprus