UEFA says Russia, Georgia end football standoff ahead of Euro 2016 draw and Sochi Olympics - InfoNews

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UEFA says Russia, Georgia end football standoff ahead of Euro 2016 draw and Sochi Olympics

From left to right, Sir Alex Ferguson, former Scottish football manager and player who managed Manchester United from 1986 to 2013, Michel Platini, UEFA President, and David Farrelly, Head of Communications at UEFA, in occasion of a press conference at the House of European Football in Nyon, Switzerland, Friday Jan. 24, 2014. UEFA has appointed Alex Ferguson to oversee its coaching programs. UEFA President Michel Platini says the former Manchester United manager will be chairman of its elite club coaches' conference held each September. (AP Photo/Keystone,Aline Staub)
January 24, 2014 - 6:29 AM

NYON, Switzerland - Russia and Georgia have ended their football spat, dating back to a brief war in 2008, by agreeing to play each other.

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

"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.

The agreement comes before next month's qualifying draw and Russia hosting the Sochi Olympics near its Georgian border.

"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 held 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 of mainly six-team groups: Spain, Germany, Netherlands, Italy, England, Portugal, Greece, Russia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The top two teams in each group qualify directly for the 24-nation 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 nation France is exempt from qualifying but will play friendlies during the qualifying program against teams drawn in the only five-nation 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.

UEFA will follow a model used at the 1998 World Cup in France — also organized by Platini and Lambert — and ask teams and fans to travel around the country rather than base groups in regional clusters.

"It was very much appreciated by all because it allowed all the spectators and the people of France a varied spectacle, and allowed foreign fans to live this event in a sporting but also a tourist aspect," Lambert said.

Platini quipped that French trains and airplanes were fast, and that his country could be crossed in three hours.

In Brazil, FIFA originally intended to base the 32 teams in regional zones but was overruled by government and tourism officials there.

While Brazil has missed stadium construction deadlines, Lambert said France was ahead of schedule, helped by mild winter weather.

News from © The Associated Press, 2014
The Associated Press

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