sport

Favourable draw for England

England have been handed a straightforward draw in 2016 European Championship qualifying, while Scotland will face the Republic of Ireland.

Alongside the English in Group E will be Switzerland, Slovenia, Estonia, San Marino and Lithuania, and the nations will play each other home and away in qualifiers which are due to kick off this autumn.

Wales also appear to have been given a decent draw but Scotland and the Republic of Ireland have been drawn together in a tough group and Northern Ireland may also face a tough task.

England boss Roy Hodgson will enjoy a reunion with Switzerland, having led them to the 1994 World Cup finals, and the Swiss currently have a very useful side, who have qualified for the World Cup this summer, but none of the other four teams in Group E will be present in Brazil.

Lithuania will be new opponents for England but San Marino famously found the net against the English after just 8.3 seconds in a 1994 World Cup qualifier, although England went on to win 7-1 and have scored at least five goals in all of their matches against the small microstate.

Estonia will also not be considered huge threats, having been beaten 3-0 home and away by England in 2007.

And England's most famous encounter with Slovenia came at the World Cup in 2010, when England triumphed 1-0 in Port Elizabeth to secure a second-round spot.

With qualification spots available for the top two finishers in each of the nine groups, the best third-place team, and the winners of play-offs between the other eight third-place finishers, it will be a huge shock if England do not progress.

There will be 24 nations taking part in the finals for the first time and Wales will have high hopes of being among them after being placed in Group B with Bosnia-Herzegovina, Belgium, Israel, Cyprus and Andorra,

But Scotland and the Republic of Ireland could have fared better, having been drawn together in a tricky-looking Group D.

Perennial heavyweights Germany are also in the group, as are Poland, Georgia and Gibraltar, who are UEFA's newest members and are entering the qualification process for the first time.

And Northern Ireland will also do well to emerge from Group F, where they will face Greece, Hungary, Romania, Finland and the Faroe Islands.

Two-time defending champions Spain should be comfortable qualifiers from Group C, which also includes Ukraine, Slovakia, Belarus, FYR Macedonia and Luxembourg.

But 2010 World Cup runners-up Holland may have to work hard to qualify from Group A, in which they will face the Czech Republic Turkey, Latvia, Iceland and Kazakhstan.

Group A: Netherlands, 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, 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 qualify as hosts, but will play friendlies against teams in Group I. There will be no points awarded for games in which France figure, so these will have no affect on the Group I table.

The top two teams from each group plus the third-placed team with the best record qualify automatically for the finals. The remaining eight third-placed teams will contest play-offs.

Qualifiers to be played between September 7, 2014 and October 13, 2015. Play-off matches to be played in November 2015.