UEFA says Russia, Georgia end football standoff

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 24, 2014 at 9:40 am •  Published: January 24, 2014
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NYON, Switzerland (AP) — Russia and Georgia have ended their football spat dating to a brief war in 2008, by agreeing to play each other.

The two national football associations stated their willingness to play in 2016 European Championship qualifying matches, UEFA President Michel Platini said on Friday.

"I'm very pleased to say that the Russians and Georgians can play together if they are in the same group," Platini said at a news conference after an executive committee meeting.

The agreement comes before the qualifying draw next month, and Russia hosting the Sochi Winter Olympics near its border with Georgia.

"I'm not sure what political discussions took place between their governments," Platini said. "We're only in touch with the football associations."

UEFA has kept apart Russia and Georgia in all national team competitions since the August 2008 conflict on the eve of the Beijing Olympics.

The Euro 2016 qualifying draw in Nice, France, will be on Feb. 23 — the final day of the Winter Olympics.

The breakthrough leaves two unresolved political issues in the Euro 2016 draw.

Armenia and Azerbaijan, which have a territorial dispute, have been kept apart since their scheduled Euro 2008 qualifiers were cancelled, and defending champion Spain refuses to play new UEFA member Gibraltar because of a sovereignty dispute with the British territory.

UEFA confirmed nine top seeds in the draw: Spain, Germany, Netherlands, Italy, England, Portugal, Greece, Russia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The first five teams listed, which have the biggest commercial markets, will be in six-team groups "for TV reasons," said UEFA, which controls rights sales of all qualifying matches.

The top two teams in each group qualify directly for the 24-team tournament. The best third-place team also advances, and the remaining third-place teams enter a playoff round to decide the final four entries.

Host France is exempt from qualifying but will play friendlies during the qualifying program against teams drawn in the only five-team group.

Tournament director Jacques Lambert said a detailed match schedule for the tournament scheduled for June 10-July 10 in 10 host cities could be published within weeks.



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