In his pre-draw press conference in the Palais des Congrès Acropolis, Nice on Saturday, Uefa president, Michel Platini, explained the reasoning behind the “week of football” which will come into being for the Euro 2016 qualifiers.
Games for the forthcoming campaign will take place over six days, running from Thursday through to Tuesday and the rationale behind the decision, according to Platini, is to raise the profile .
“The clubs have the Champions League and the Europa League and we felt international football was being pushed out of the limelight,” he explained.
“It was a political decision to ensure international football was given the exposure it deserves and the new format will give people accross Europe the chance to see all the matches across the continent and not just their own country’s matches.”
And the Frenchman was quick to react to any criticism around the number of teams who will qualify for Euro2016, and was insistent that having 24 teams in the finals would not dilute the tournament.
“England and Germany were against the idea, as well as one other country if I remember rightly, but the vast majority were in favour of the proposal by Ireland and Scotland,” he said.
“There are several strong teams within Uefa and we can get 24 very good sides to France.
“Perhaps the strongest five or six teams will find it easy to qualify but the teams ranked 15 to 40 will have a real battle and that can only be good for the game.”
“But remember, some teams who don’t qualify for France might look to get 32 teams next time,” he chuckled!
On this day in 2009 Wales got their Womens' World Cup qualification group underway with home game against Belgium.