UK and Ireland host nations set to enter Euro 2028 qualifying

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UK and Ireland host nations set to enter Euro 2028 qualifying

Wales legend Gareth Bale (R) and UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin (C) with football fans
Wales legend Gareth Bale (R) and UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin (C) with football fansAFP
England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland will enter qualifying for Euro 2028 despite being named hosts, the head of the English Football Association (FA) said on Tuesday.

UEFA awarded the tournament to the five-nation bid after it was unopposed, with Italy and Turkey agreeing to co-host the 2032 European Championship.

However, not all the hosts will be guaranteed passage to the 24-team tournament, according to FA chief executive Mark Bullingham.

UEFA are reportedly planning to reserve two spots for the best two performing host nations that fail to qualify.

England have only failed to qualify once for the Euro since 1984, when it was a 16-team tournament in 2008.

But making major tournaments has been a far tougher task for the other four hosts.

Northern Ireland have only reached one European Championship in their history.

Wales' only two appearances in the competition have come since it was expanded to a 24-team tournament.

Scotland's qualification for Euro 2020 was their first for any major tournament since 1998, while the Republic of Ireland are currently ranked 55th in the world.

"From our point of view, it's great to be taking part in qualifying and we want to get everyone (all five nations) there," Bullingham told Sky Sports.

"It is better to play in a tournament where it matters and we have competitive games. We're looking forward to that.

"It's always been part of our discussions with the other countries and UEFA that we would take part in qualifying. We think with the new format of European football that's the right thing to do."

'Good partnership'

England is set to provide six of the 10 venues; Wembley and the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, Manchester City's Etihad Stadium, Newcastle's St James' Park, Villa Park in Birmingham and Everton's new stadium in Liverpool.

Belfast, Cardiff, Dublin and Glasgow will be the other host cities.

"It's a really good partnership. We know we're going to have five games in Northern Ireland, six in Wales, Scotland and Ireland," added Bullingham.

"It's brilliant those countries are going to get a significant portion of games, particularly if they end up with some of their own home games - it will really excite the countries."

Football Association of Wales chief executive Noel Mooney confirmed Cardiff was bidding to host the opening match.

"Cardiff would be perfect for the opening match," said Mooney.

The Welsh capital, Glasgow, Dublin and Wembley are expected to be handed quarter-finals.

However, there remain doubts about the proposed Belfast venue at Casement Park.

Plans to redevelop the derelict site into a 34,000-capacity venue have been mired in controversy and hit by delays.

Wembley is also set to host both semi-finals and final as it did at Euro 2020.

The final two years ago was marred by scenes of violence as supporters stormed the gates to access the stadium.

But Bullingham said UEFA had no hesitation in returning to the home of English football for a showpiece occasion.

"They know we've spent a lot of money upgrading the stadium. They're really confident we can deliver a brilliant Euros and that's what we'll do," added Bullingham.

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