England will face old enemies Scotland in qualifying for soccer’s 2018 World Cup in Russian Federation after they were paired together at a lavish draw ceremony in Saint Petersburg on Satuirday.
Ireland avoided Europe’s traditional big guns but still ended up in a tricky group drawn in with Wales, Austria, Serbia, Georgia and Moldova.
World champions Germany were put against the Czech Republic, Northern Ireland, Norway, Azerbaijan and San Marino in the draw made in Saint Petersburg’s Konstantin palace.
There may have been chuckles north of the border every time the Three Lions exit a tournament, and sometimes that’s been earlier than anyone expected, but they will be favourites to top this group.
“Results of friendly matches become important which I probably did not realise on day one coming in here”.
“I am delighted that we will not play against Italy and France”, he said.
Spare a thought for Zimbabwe as you tune into Saturday afternoon’s draw for the next World Cup’s qualifying stages: thrown out of a Federation Internationale de Football Association tournament for ropey financials…it really doesn’t bear thinking about.
Gary Lineker tweeted: “A bit of England v Scotland in the World Cup qualifiers”.
Scotland and Northern Ireland also moved up in the world after graduating to pot three, raising the prospect of all four home nations being given a realistic chance of reaching the finals.
A first major finals appearance at Euro 2000 was followed by qualification for World Cup 2002 where they exited at the group stage.
Yes we held our own and gained a draw in our current qualifying campaign with the Germans, but their qualifying record is simply huge. In the Euro 2016 qualifers, the story remains the same with six games played and only one point earned.
Powered by Real Madrid star Gareth Bale, Wales is unbeaten in its last seven matches, and coach Chris Coleman’s team was ranked in the top seeding group thanks to clever manipulation of the points system used in FIFA’s rankings. Both the game at Wembley and the game at Celtic Park were played in a very competitive manner and were extremely intense but there was certainly nothing untoward, there was not a bad foul in either of the two games.
“We have an interesting group against good opponents”, he said.
Group D: Wales, Austria, Serbia, Republic of Ireland, Moldova, Georgia.?Group E: Romania, Denmark, Poland, Montenegro, Armenia, Kazakhstan.?Group F: England, Slovakia, Scotland, Malta, Lithuania, Slovenia.?Group G: Spain, Italy, Albania, Israel, Macedonia, Liechtenstein.?Group H: Belgium, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Greece, Estonia, Cyprus.?Group I: Croatia, Iceland, Ukraine, Turkey, Finland.
The 20 winners from the second round will go into a third round comprising five groups of four.