England were handed a relatively kind France 2016 draw for the European Championships with Switzerland their main rivals for a place in the 24-team finals.
The Swiss will join England in Group E along with San Marino, Lithuania, Estonia and Slovenia.
Gibraltar will also feature in the qualifying draw for the first time after they were handed UEFA membership in May 2013 although former Manchester United and Stoke City defender Danny Higginbotham will not be playing for the Gibraltarians following his retirement from football. Higginbotham had qualified for the national team through his maternal grandmother and his uncle, Allen Bula, is the team manager and his one and only International game for Gibraltar was their inaugural match as a UEFA member – a 0-0 draw against Slovakia on November 19, 2013.
They may have wanted to get England but will be well pleased to be drawn alongside Scotland and the Republic of Ireland in Group D and will also welcome Germany, Georgia and Poland to their ‘home’ stadium at the Estadio Algarve in Faro, Portugal.
Wales have major rivals in the shape of Belgium whose strongest team boasts several recognisable players plying their trade in the Barclays Premier League including Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany, and Chelsea’s in-form winger Eden Hazard. Bosnia-Herzegovina are the other major country in Wales’ group and they also have a City player – Edin Dzeko – whose goals have sent his country to the World Cup finals in Brazil this year.
Northern Ireland face tough tasks in Group F, with games against Greece, Faroe Islands, Finland, Romania and Hungary coming up.
Groups (Top 2 qualify automatically along with best 3rd place team. Four other 3rd place teams will also go through after a 2-legged play off with other 3rd place teams). Ties will be played between September 7 2014 and October 13 2015 with play-offs scheduled for November 2015.
A: Netherlands, Kazakhstan, Iceland, Latvia, Turkey, Czech Republic
B: Bosnia-Herzegovina, Andorra, Cyprus, Wales, Israel, Belgium
C: Spain, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Belarus, Slovakia, Ukraine
D: Germany, Gibraltar, Georgia, Scotland, Poland, Republic of Ireland
E: England, San Marino, Lithuania, Estonia, Slovenia, Switzerland
F: Greece, Faroe Islands, Northern Ireland, Finland, Romania, Hungary
G: Russia, Liechtenstein, Moldova, Montenegro, Austria, Sweden
H: Italy, Malta, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Norway, Croatia
I: Portugal, Albania, Armenia, Serbia, Denmark