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Euro 2008 -By Stephen Fry
By Stephen Fry
Euro 2008 Draw European champions Greece have been handed a stern test against Turkey as they begin the defence of the trophy they won in Lisbon in July 2004 following today's draw for the UEFA EURO 2008 qualifying competition in Montreux, Switzerland.
Otto Rehhagel's side must also overcome Norway, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Hungary, Moldova and Malta in Group C if they are to reach the 2008 finals in Austria and Switzerland. The team they defeated in the UEFA EURO 2004 final, Portugal, are in Group A - the only section comprising eight countries with the remaining six pools involving seven sides - along with Poland, Serbia and Montenegro, Belgium, Finland, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, who are making their competition debut.
Former winners meet
Group B includes two former UEFA European Championship winners in Italy, triumphant in 1968, and France, who prevailed on home soil in 1984 and at UEFA EURO 2000 against the Azzurri, as well as Ukraine - for whom this summer's FIFA World Cup represents a first major tournament appearance - Scotland, Lithuania, Georgia and the Faroe Islands. Germany, three-time champions whose last success came at EURO '96, face the Czech Republic in Group D, along with Slovakia, the Republic of Ireland, Wales, Cyprus and San Marino.
England and Croatia will challenge in Group E having also crossed paths at UEFA EURO 2004, although Russia and Israel will hope to vie for a top-two berth and Estonia, F.Y.R. Macedonia and Andorra are also in contention. Denmark, surprise kings of Europe at EURO '92, meet Spain - whose solitary title at senior national-team level came at the 1964 UEFA European Championship - in Group F in which Sweden are top seeds and Latvia will look to repeat their UEFA EURO 2004 qualifying success.
The Netherlands, for whom the 2008 tournament will mark the 20-year anniversary of their European triumph in West Germany, are the top-ranked team in Group G which includes Bulgaria, who were also present in Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Albania, Belarus and Luxembourg.
Fifty countries participated in the draw, which was conducted by two famous names from Austrian and Swiss football in Andreas Herzog and Stephane Chapuisat respectively, with Austria and Switzerland qualifying automatically as co-hosts. The groups will be contested in a league system on a home-and-away basis, with the games to be played according to the international match calendar between September 2006 and November 2007. The seven winners and seven runners-up of each pool progress to the finals.
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