Friday, 26 September 2008

UEFA expand Euro Championship finals

UEFA have today approved the expansion of the final tournament of the UEFA European Championship from 16 to 24 teams, as from 2016.

Italy's only Euro triumph in 1968The format of the final tournament will consist of six groups of four teams, followed by a round of 16, quarter-finals, semi-finals and the final.

The top two from each group would qualify in addition to the four best third-ranked sides.

This format would generate a total of 51 games, compared with 31 now, to be played over a period of 29 to 31 days depending on the match schedule.

The proposal to expand the competition was put forward to the UEFA Executive Committee by the Scottish Football Association and Football Association of Ireland last year.

This historic decision gives middle-ranked countries a much greater chance to qualify for the finals. The traditional qualifying structure, with groups of six and five teams, will remain in place.

"One can give a considerable number of reasons," said UEFA President Michel Platini. "I'm sure that it will not change the technical level. In addition to the 16 qualifiers, there are eight other teams just as good."

The host country for the 15th edition of the tournament in 2016 is yet to be selected but the decision today means fewer countries will have the capacity to host a 24-team tournament.

The tournament has gradually increased since 1976, when four countries took part. Eight teams were present in Italy in 1980, and the 16-team final round was introduced for the tournament in England in 1996.

Source: UEFA

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