The Netherlands and Germany have been grouped together in qualification for the 2020 European Championship at the draw in Dublin, one of 12 host cities for the finals that will be staged across the continent for the first time.
Germany, the team everyone wanted to avoid after their poor showing in UEFA's new Nations League competition pushed them into the second pot of seeds, will also play Northern Ireland, Estonia and Belarus in Group C when the qualification competition begins in March, according to the draw on Sunday.
Euro 2020 draw.Credit:AP
Holders Portugal must face Ukraine and Serbia in a tricky five-team Group B which also includes Lithuania and Luxembourg while world champions France drew Iceland and Turkey in Group H.
Elsewhere, three-time champions Spain were drawn in Group F with Sweden, Norway and Romania. England, one of the other in-form teams from the Nations League, face the Czech Republic and Bulgaria in Group A.
The top two teams from each group qualify automatically. Unlike previous tournaments, the playoffs to decide the four other spots will be contested between the most successful teams from the four divisions of the Nations League who have not already qualified.
"I would say it's a group with three candidates for two places, and Portugal are one of them," said Portugal coach Fernando Santos.
"We escaped playing Germany … or Germany escaped playing us. You could say the group is less difficult because Germany are not there but that would not be true. Ukraine and Serbia are difficult."
Italy coach Roberto Mancini is hoping to restore his team's credibility after they failed to qualify for the World Cup.
He was also happy to avoid Germany after his side were drawn in Group J along with teams including Bosnia, Finland and Greece.
"A good draw, the aim was to avoid Germany," he said.
"We need to improve and get back to being among the top teams."
The new format offers a potential back door for any top side that struggles in qualifying, while also handing the leading minnows from the lowest Nations League division — Kosovo, Georgia, Belarus and Macedonia — a crack at the last qualification place.
The finals will take place in 12 different cities stretching from Bilbao in Spain to Baku in Azerbaijan. For the first time in the competition's history, the tournament will be hosted by more than two countries to mark its 60th anniversary.
No team will qualify automatically as hosts, although every host country that qualifies will be guaranteed two home games in the group phase. The Euro 2020 final will be held at London's Wembley Stadium.
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