Euro 2016 Qualifying: Hodgson has fixture concerns

Ruud Gullit, left, Bixente Lizarazu, right, and France's UEFA European Championship winning goalkeeper Fabien Barthez
Ruud Gullit, left, Bixente Lizarazu, right, and France's UEFA European Championship winning goalkeeper Fabien Barthez
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England manager Roy Hodgson is worried his team’s Euro 2016 qualifying prospects could be harmed by a combination of UEFA’s new match scheduling format and televised club games.

Roy Hodgson’s side were drawn in Group E along with Switzerland – the team he led to the 1994 World Cup finals – Slovenia, Estonia, Lithuania and San Marino.

On the face of it, England looked to have been handed a straightforward route to the finals in France.

However, with UEFA now spreading games in international breaks from Thursday until Tuesday, Hodgson is worried England will be asked to play the first game of back-to-back fixtures with little preparation time.

Hodgson said: “The thing I’m most concerned about is Thursday. I feel that in our preparations we’ll have to deal with top matches on Super Sunday, which means we wouldn’t really get the players to do any real work with them before the Tuesday, and if we were playing on the Thursday it would make our preparations very difficult. I don’t think we’d be able to persuade the Premier League and Sky Sports to bring the best fixtures to the Saturday and it will mean basically we’ll get no preparation.”

Overall, though, Hodgson saw England’s draw as positive.

“I’m very satisfied,” he said. “Switzerland always brings a smile to my face. They were four fantastic years. It’s a team we know reasonably well so I was happy with that one.”

England will kick off their qualifying campaign with perhaps their toughest fixture –away in Switzerland on Monday September 8. The first qualifier at Wembley will be against San Marino on Thursday October 9 swiftly followed by an away tie against Estonia on Sunday October 12. England’s final qualifier is away against Lithuania.

Scotland and the Republic of Ireland will face each other in a Group D battle between two teams led by former Celtic managers, Gordon Strachan and Martin O’Neill. They join Germany, Poland and Georgia, as well as UEFA’s newest member Gibraltar, who were drawn to Group C with Spain but were switched to D for political reasons.

Wales have a shot at a play-off place or better in Group B, where they will face Bosnia-Herzegovina, Belgium, Israel, Cyprus and Andorra.

Northern Ireland were drawn in Group F with top seeds Greece, Hungary, Romania, Finland and the Faroe Islands in a competitive-looking group.

Two teams will go directly to the finals from each group, and the best third-placed side will join them, with four others advancing from play-offs between the eight other third-placed finishers.

EURO 2016 QUALIFYING DRAW: Group A: Holland, Czech Republic, Turkey, Latvia, Iceland, Kazakhstan; Group B: Bosnia-Herzegovina, Belgium, Israel, Wales, Cyprus, Andorra; Group C: Spain, Ukraine, Slovakia, Belarus, Macedonia, Luxembourg; Group D: Germany, Republic of Ireland, Poland, Scotland, Georgia, Gibraltar; Group E: England, Switzerland, Slovenia, Estonia, Lithuania, San Marino; Group F: Greece, Hungary, Romania, Finland, Northern Ireland, Faroe Islands; Group G: Russia, Sweden, Austria, Montenegro, Moldova, Liechtenstein; Group H: Italy, Croatia, Norway, Bulgaria, Azerbaijan, Malta. Group I: Portugal, Denmark, Serbia, Armenia, Albania, France (France qualify as hosts but will play friendlies in Group I where no points will be awarded).

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