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Football Sport

World champions Germany get kind qualifying draw

Former German football player Bierhoff holds up the slip showing "Germany" during the preliminary draw for the 2018 FIFA World Cup at Konstantin Palace in St. Petersburg

World champions Germany avoided facing some of their strongest rivals when the draw for the European qualifying groups for the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia was made on Saturday.

Germany, who won the World Cup for the fourth time in Brazil last year will face the Czech Republic, Northern Ireland, Norway, Azerbaijan and San Marino in Group C.

UEFA’s decision to place their six top-seeded teams — Germany, France, England, Italy, Spain and Netherlands — in six-team groups rather than five-team groups to maximise revenue from TV and commercial opportunities, threw up tough draws for four of those countries.

Netherlands and France were drawn in Group A, along with Sweden, Bulgaria, Belarus and Luxembourg, while Spain, world champions in 2010, and Italy, who won the last of their four titles in 2006, were also drawn together.

The Spaniards will also face Albania, Israel, Macedonia and Liechtenstein in Group G.

England, whose only World Cup win came in 1966, were paired with their oldest rivals Scotland in Group F, along with Slovakia, Slovenia, Lithuania and Malta.

The nine group winners qualify automatically for the finals while the eight best runners-up will go into a playoff round of four two-legged home-and-away ties with the four winners going through.

Hosts Russia qualify automatically meaning 14 European teams will be in the finals in three years’ time.

European qualifying draw for 2018 World Cup

GROUP A
Netherlands
France
Sweden
Bulgaria
Belarus
Luxembourg

GROUP B
Portugal
Switzerland
Hungary
Faroe Islands
Latvia
Andorra

GROUP C
Germany
Czech Republic
Northern Ireland
Norway
Azerbaijan
San Marino

GROUP D
Wales
Austria
Serbia
Ireland
Moldova
Georgia

GROUP E
Romania
Denmark
Poland
Montenegro
Armenia
Kazakhstan

GROUP F
England
Slovakia
Scotland
Slovenia
Lithuania
Malta

GROUP G
Spain
Italy
Albania
Israel
FYR Macedonia
Liechtenstein

GROUP H
Belgium
Bosnia
Greece
Estonia
Cyprus

GROUP I
Croatia
Iceland
Ukraine
Turkey
Finland



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