DUBLIN • The Netherlands and three-time winners Germany were grouped together in qualification for the 2020 European Championship at yesterday's 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 qualifying begins in March.
The Dutch failed to qualify for the last two major tournaments and coach Ronald Koeman said his rejuvenated side will relish the battles with Germany.
"I wasn't happy because they are strong, they were the strongest team in the second pot, but Germany are also not happy with Holland, I think," he said.
"I think the rest of the draw is acceptable but, with the Germans, it will be a good fight. We know it will be tough to beat them. The development of the team is really positive and we look forward."
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.
EURO 2020 QUALIFIERS - THE DRAW
GROUP A: England *, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Montenegro, Kosovo *
GROUP B: Portugal *, Ukraine *, Serbia *, Lithuania, Luxembourg
GROUP C: Netherlands *, Germany, Northern Ireland, Estonia, Belarus *
GROUP D: Switzerland *, Denmark *, Ireland, Georgia *, Gibraltar
GROUP E: Croatia, Wales, Slovakia, Hungary, Azerbaijan
GROUP F: Spain, Sweden *, Norway *, Romania, Faroe Islands, Malta
GROUP G: Poland, Austria, Israel, Slovenia, Macedonia *, Latvia
GROUP H: France, Iceland, Turkey, Albania, Moldova, Andorra
GROUP I: Belgium, Russia, Scotland *, Cyprus, Kazakhstan, San Marino
GROUP J: Italy Bosnia *, Finland *, Greece, Armenia, Liechtenstein
HOW IT WORKS
Top two in each group qualify automatically.
Four places are decided via a 16-team play-off.
* Nations League group winners, guaranteed a play-off place.
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 play-offs 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 team who struggle 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 host, 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.