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UEFA divided the 49 teams seeking to qualify for the 2000 European Championship finals into nine groups at the preliminary draw held in Ghent, Belgium on January 18, 1998.  Before the draw, UEFA seeded the teams into five tiers using its late 1997 European national team ranking table, which assigned each team a coefficient calculated from results in the qualifying competitions for the 1996 European Championship and the 1998 World Cup. 

Because Netherlands, ranked 11th, and Belgium, ranked 18th, qualified for the final tournament automatically as hosts, they were not included in the seedings list, and so all teams ranked below them had seedings one or two places higher than their rankings.  Moreover, UEFA made Germany the No. 1 seed although it was ranked 5th, presumably because of its fine record in the European Championship, and thus all teams with rankings higher than Germany were seeded a place lower than their ranking. 

Since England, as the host nation, did not participate in qualifying for the 1996 European Championship, their coefficient was calculated only on the basis of qualifying results for the 1998 World Cup.  England were one of the nine top-seeded teams.  

The draw assigned to qualifying Group 2 Luxembourg, ranked 44th and seeded 42nd, from the fifth tier of teams, Poland, ranked 30th and seeded 28th, from the fourth tier, Sweden, ranked 23rd and seeded 21st, from the third tier, Bulgaria, ranked 10th and seeded 10th, from the second, and England, ranked 4th and seeded 5th, from the first.  

Team P W D L F A GD Pts
Sweden 8 7 1 0 10 1 +9 22
England 8 3 4 1 14 4 +10 13
Poland 8 4 1 3 12 8 +4 13
Bulgaria 8 2 2 4 6 8 -2 8
Luxembourg 8 0 0 8 2 23 -21 0

5 September 1998
Sweden 2 England 1 [1-0]
Rasunda Fotbollstadion, Solna (35,394)
A.Andersson, Mjällby
6 September 1998
Bulgaria 0 Poland 3 [0-2]
Neftochimik Stadion, Bourgas (18,000)
Hajto, Swierczewski, Iwan
10 October 1998
England 0 Bulgaria 0 [0-0]
Wembley Stadium, Wembley (72,974)
Poland 3 Luxembourg 0 [2-0]
Stadion Wojska Polskiego, Warszawa (8,000)
Brzeczek, Juskowiak, Trzeciak
14 October 1998
Bulgaria 0 Sweden 1 [0-0]
Neftochimik Stadion, Bourgas (15,000)
Luxembourg 0 England 3 [0-2]
Stade Josy Barthel, Lëtzebuerg (8,054)
Owen, Shearer (pen), Southgate
27 March 1999
England 3 Poland 1 [1-1]
Wembley Stadium, Wembley (73,836)
Scholes (3)
Sweden 2 Luxembourg 0 [1-0]
Nya Ullevi Stadion, Goteborg (37,728)
Mjällby, Larsson
31 March 1999
Luxembourg 0 Bulgaria 2 [0-2]
Stade Josy Barthel, Lëtzebuerg (3,004)
Stoichkov, Yordanov
Poland 0 Sweden 1 [0-1]
Stadion Slaski, Chorzow (28,860)
4 June 1999
Poland 2 Bulgaria 0 [1-0]
Stadion Wojska Polskiego, Warszawa (6,200)
Hajto, Iwan
5 June 1999
England 0 Sweden 0 [0-0]
Wembley Stadium, Wembley (75,824)
9 June 1999
Bulgaria 1 England 1 [1-1]
Stadion Balgarska Armia, Sofiya (25,000)
Luxembourg 2 Poland 3 [0-2]
Stade Josy Barthel, Lëtzebuerg (2,806)
Birsens, Vanek
Siadaczka, Wichniarek, Iwan
4 September 1999
England 6 Luxembourg 0 [5-0]
Wembley Stadium, Wembley (68,772)
Shearer (3 (1 pen)), McManaman (2), Owen
Sweden 1 Bulgaria 0 [0-0]
Rasunda Fotbollstadion, Solna (35,640)
8 September 1999
Luxembourg 0 Sweden 1 [0-1]
Stade Josy Barthel, Lëtzebuerg (4,228)
Poland 0 England 0 [0-0]
Stadion Wojska Polskiego, Warszawa (14,025)
9 October 1999
Sweden 2 Poland 0 [0-0]
Rasunda Fotbollstadion, Solna (35,375)
K.Andersson, Larsson
Bulgaria 3 Luxembourg 0 [1-0]
Stadion Balgarska Armia, Sofiya (3,000)
Borimirov, I.Petkov, R.Hristov

13 November 1999
Scotland 0 England 2 [0-2]
Hampden Park, Glasgow (50,132)
Scholes (2)
17 November 1999
England 0 Scotland 1 [0-1]
Wembley Stadium, Wembley (75,848)



Immediately following the preliminary draw, bookmakers installed England as favourites to win one of the most difficult qualifying groups.  England did, indeed, qualify for the finals, but they had to do it the hard way.

By way of Sweden's victory over Poland in the qualifying competition's last round, England finished with the same number of points as Poland and gained second place in the qualifying group under UEFA regulations for the competition.  Those regulations specified that points deadlocks would be broken by looking first at the points earned in the two qualifying matches between the deadlocked teams.  England beat Poland at Wembley Stadium, 3-1, and played them to a scoreless draw in Warsaw.  While first place Sweden earned a spot in the Euro 2000 finals, England, as a second place team, had to win a home and away playoff series to advance.  

Twelve of the 16 berths in the finals were filled at the end of qualifying group play:  the two automatically qualified host nations, Belgium and Netherlands; the nine qualifying group winners, Italy, Norway, Germany, France, Sweden, Spain, Romania, Yugoslavia and the Czech Republic; and the second place team with the best record, Portugal. 

The remaining second place teams from the eight other qualifying groups, including England, were paired for home and away playoff games in a draw held Wednesday, October 13, 1999 in Aachen, Germany.  The eight teams in the draw were not seeded, and so England's opponent could have been any one of the seven other teams.  But the luck of the draw paired England with Scotland, thus renewing the oldest rivalry in international football. 

England beat Scotland in the away leg, 2-0, lost the home leg, 1-0, and advanced on aggregate score, 2-1.  In the three other playoff pairings, Turkey advanced over the Republic of Ireland, Denmark over Israel and Slovenia over Ukraine.  The four teams winning the playoffs joined the other 12 qualifying teams in the Euro 2000 finals staged from June 10 to July 2.