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Sports

Germany aim to top qualifying group for Euro 2016

Germany has been handed a favorable draw for the qualifying stages for the qualifying stages of Euro 2016. Among the teams alongside them in Group D are Scotland and Ireland, as well as UEFA’s newest member, Gibraltar.

Germany's trickiest opponents in the qualifying draw for the tournament in France, at least on paper, would appear to be a Poland team led by Borussia Dortmund striker Robert Lewandowski.

The Republic of Ireland, Georgia and Scotland are all potential "banana skins," although Germany are clear favorites to take the top spot. Making up the group is Gibraltar, who as the newest member of the European football community is embarking on its maiden qualifying campaign.

"I know nothing about Gibraltar," admitted Germany coach Joachim Löw, who was quick to add that his thoughts at present are elsewhere.

"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 draw took place at Nice's Palais de Congres Acropolis, and was conducted by EUFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino and Euro winners Ruud Gullit and Bixente Lizarazu. Also taking part in the ceremony were a host of goalkeeping greats, including Germany's Andreas Köpke and Denmark's Peter Schmeichel.

Question of quality

Germany is bidding to qualify for its 12th consecutive European Championship. The scope of the 2016 competition is to expand from 16 teams to 24, a decision that has been criticized by some who say the quality of football will be diluted.

There are eight groups of six teams and one group of five, with the hosts France enjoying automatic entry into the tournament. As well as 19 direct qualifiers - and the hosts - there are four more berths to be decided in play-offs between the eight worst third-placed nations.

The first of the qualifiers takes place on September 7, when Germany face Scotland at home. The complete qualifying groups are as follows:

Group A
Netherlands, Czech Republic, Turkey, Latvia, Iceland, Kazakhstan

Group B
Bosnia and Herzegovina, Belgium, Israel, Wales, Cyprus, Andorra

Group C
Spain, Ukraine, Slovakia, Belarus, Former Yugoslav Republic of 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

rc/ipj (AP, AFP, SID, dpa)