Updated: Sunday, 23 February 2014 22:27 | By Agence France-Presse

Hodgson handed Swiss reunion in Euro draw

England manager Roy Hodgson was looking forward to coming up against his old side Switzerland after the draw for the Euro 2016 qualifiers paired the nations together on Sunday.


Hodgson handed Swiss reunion in Euro draw

Former Russian goalkeeper Rinav Dasaev draws the England name during the qualifying draw Euro 2016, on February 23, 2014 in Nice, France - by Valery Hache

The English, among the top seeds, were drawn in Group E along with the Swiss, Slovenia, Estonia, Lithuania and the familiar old foes of San Marino in the draw in Nice, southern France.

With the expanded 2016 European Championship set to feature 24 nations for the first time, the top two countries will qualify from each section, as well as the best third-placed side.

That means the prospect of England or any of the continent's other leading nations failing to make it to the finals in France seem slim to say the least.

However, Hodgson spoke respectfully of all his side's opponents and was especially excited about meeting the Swiss, whom he led to the World Cup finals in the United States back in 1994.

"It's a very good group. Obviously particularly for the fans this time," said Hodgson. "The travelling will be a lot easier than it has sometimes been in the past. They are all nice places to go to as well, so we are looking forward to it.

"Obviously from a sentimental and nostalgic point of view Switzerland is always something special, so I was actually quite pleased to see them come out of the hat, even though these days they're having quite a lot of success," he added.

Elsewhere, reigning world champions and two-time defending European champions Spain were handed what appears to be a kind draw too, with Ukraine and Slovakia their toughest opponents in Group C.

However, coach Vicente del Bosque admitted that other factors could work against his team during the campaign.

"It is not as easy a group as it may seem. There are young teams and emerging football powers (in the group)," said Del Bosque.

"The cold could be an important factor in the group because we have a lot of journeys to countries in the east."

Of all the leading nations in Europe, 1988 champions the Netherlands were perhaps handed the worst group, as they will come up against Euro '96 finalists the Czech Republic and Turkey in Group A.

- David versus Goliath -

Meanwhile, Italy will have to take on Croatia in what Azzurri coach Cesare Prandelli insisted would be a "demanding" Group H, while there will be a veritable David versus Goliath clash in Group D, where international football newboys Gibraltar were drawn with Germany.

Gibraltar, in their first tournament since being accepted as a UEFA member last year, will take on the might of a German side who will be bidding to qualify for a 12th consecutive European Championship finals.

"I know nothing about Gibraltar," admitted Germany coach Joachim Loew, although he is not along in having his thoughts elsewhere at the moment.

"For me at the moment it's (the World Cup in) Brazil in my mind and then later on in August I will think about the qualification."

The tiny British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar were also drawn with Scotland, as well as the Republic of Ireland and Poland in what looks set to be an unforgiving section.

The decision to increase the number of finalists has been criticised by many who believe the quality of football on offer come the tournament itself will be diluted as a result. 

As well as the 19 direct qualifiers and the hosts, there will also be four more berths, which will be decided in play-offs between the eight worst third-placed nations.

There are eight groups of six teams as well as one - Group I - that contains five nations, including Portugal and 1992 champions Denmark.

However, France are also allocated to that group and will play friendly matches against those teams, for which no points will be awarded.

The first qualifiers will be played on September 7 and the campaign will see matches spread over six days, from Thursday to Tuesday, during every international weekend in a format that UEFA have championed as the 'Week of Football'. The finals themselves will run from June 10 to July 10, 2016.

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