Ahead of February’s draw for the Euro 2016 qualifiers, more details have been released concerning match dates, scheduling and TV rights. The information was published on the Romanian FA website.
UEFA’s ‘Week of Football’ concept comes into effect for the qualifiers, with the games being spread out between Thursday and Tuesday on the game-weeks. This means that there is no chance of any of Gibraltar’s qualifying games being on National Day in this qualifying campaign, as the September 2014 and 2015 round of games end on the 9th and 8th respectively. Below is the schedule: (from Wikipedia, via the official FIFA calendar)
(Thu – Sat)
(Sun – Tue)
|2014||4–6 September||7–9 September|
|9–11 October||12–14 October|
|13–15 November||16–18 November|
|2015||26–28 March||29–31 March|
|11–13 June||14–16 June|
|3–5 September||6–8 September|
|8–10 October||11–13 October|
|12–14 November||15–17 November|
Also confirmed by UEFA is that for every team, they are guaranteed a home and away game in their first and last two games of the qualifiers. This means that Gibraltar will be travelling to the Algarve in September for one of their first games. Unlike previous campaigns, the fixtures will be decided by a computerised process, instead of between the FA’s of the teams in each group. This is likely due to scheduling disagreements in previous campaigns between different FA’s.
Another interesting note from this press release is that some of the top nations will be guaranteed to be in a group of six teams for TV reasons. As bottom seeds, Gibraltar can not be drawn in the group of five teams either, so there is now an increased chance that Gibraltar could draw one of England, Germany, Italy or Holland in the groups. Spain are also included in the TV rights deal, but for obvious reasons Gibraltar will not draw the World and European Champions.
The predicted top seeds (not including Spain), are: Germany, Netherlands, Italy, England, Portugal, Greece, Russia, Bosnia-Herzegovina. Any of these nations would provide a massive game for Gibraltar, whilst strong teams remain in each of the five pots above Gibraltar. The full predicted pot seedings are below:
Pot 1: Spain, Germany, Netherlands, Italy, England, Portugal, Greece, Russia, Bosnia-Herzegovina
Pot 2: Croatia, Ukraine, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, Belgium, Czech Republic, Hungary, Republic of Ireland
Pot 3: Serbia, Turkey, Slovenia, Israel, Norway, Slovakia, Romania, Austria, Montenegro
Pot 4: Armenia, Poland, Scotland, Finland, Latvia, Wales, Bulgaria, Estonia, Belarus
Pot 5: Iceland, Northern Ireland, Albania, Lithuania, Moldova, FYR Macedonia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Cyprus
Pot 6: Luxembourg, Kazakhstan, Liechtenstein, Faroe Islands, Malta, Andorra, San Marino, Gibraltar
There are countless possibilities from that seeding list. Gibraltar could easily be drawn in a very strong group containing Germany, Belgium, Serbia, Poland and Iceland. They could also get a ‘home nations’ filled group containing England, Republic of Ireland, Slovakia*, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Further draw possibilities could include an almost fully Mediterranean themed group, where they drew Greece, Croatia, Turkey, Estonia* and Cyprus.
As the draw date gets closer (February 23rd in Nice), more details will no doubt be announced about the draw. For now though, Gibraltar is getting closer and closer to its first taste of competitive qualifying football in UEFA.
*No team in those pots fit the theme criteria.