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Qualifiers for Euro 2016 to be played over a six-day week

Euro 2016 qualifying matches will be spread over six days of so-called "international weeks" rather than concentrated into just two.

Previously, the week-long periods allocated to international football have featured one batch of matches on Friday and another on Tuesday, but UEFA said yesterday they would now be more evenly distributed.

"This is great news for football fans and for football," said Gianni Infantino, the secretary general of European football's governing body. "Broadcasters will get more games and more appointments to view. National team football will get greater exposure than before."

UEFA said that every day of the so-called "week of football" would feature eight to 10 matches, rather than 20 to 30 on each evening.

The draw for the Euro 2016 qualifying tournament will be made in Nice on February 23. The 53 teams will be split into eight groups of six and one group of five. The top two sides in each group plus the best third-placed team will qualify directly for Euro 2016 in France.

The other eight third-placed teams will play each other for four more places in the 24-team tournament. Hosts France qualify automatically, while defending champions Spain, Germany, Netherlands, Italy, England, Portugal, Greece, Russia and Bosnia would be the top seeds for the draw, UEFA said.

The seedings, decided by UEFA's coefficient system which is different to FIFA's world ranking, place the Republic of Ireland among the pot of second seeds, Scotland and Wales in the fourth pot and Northern Ireland in the fifth. It was also revealed that France would play friendlies against the teams in the group of five.

In addition, the governing body announced that Spain and Gibraltar will be kept apart in the qualifying draw, as the British overseas territory prepares to take part for the first time after being accepted as a member of UEFA last year. Azerbaijan and Armenia will also be kept apart but Russia and Georgia have agreed to play each other if they are drawn together.

Jacques Lambert, the president of the 2016 tournament, added that his organising committee are still looking into issues concerning ticketing, but confirmed that group matches would be held at venues all over the country, as they were at the World Cup in 1998.

"We are looking at whether to have e-tickets or paper tickets," he explained. "There is still a lot of work to do before that decision is taken. [The system of using stadia] was appreciated in the 1998 World Cup because it allowed foreign fans the possibility to enjoy this event with a tourist aspect to it as well as football, and it allowed for people in France to see all the different teams."

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