Football

World Cup 2018 Qualifying Draw: England and Scotland will clash

England and Scotland were drawn in Group F along with Slovakia, Slovenia, Lithuania and Malta.

The winners will qualify automatically for the finals in Russia, with the runners-up having to take part in a play-off.

Wales were drawn in Group D with the Republic of Ireland, plus Austria, Serbia, Moldova and Georgia.

Northern Ireland will have to face world champions Germany in Group C along with the Czech Republic, Norway, Azerbaijan and San Marino.England and Wales were both among the nine countries who were top seeds for the draw, thanks to their July FIFA rankings of ninth and 10th respectively.

Scotland and Northern Ireland were among the third seeds, and Martin O'Neill's Republic of Ireland side in the pot of fourth seeds.

England have not failed to qualify for a World Cup since 1994, though they did miss out on the European Championships in 2008.

By contrast Wales have only attended a World Cup finals once in their history, in 1958, while Scotland's last appearance came in 1998, Northern Ireland's in 1982 and the Republic of Ireland in 2002.



Full World Cup Qualifying Group Draw

Group A:

Netherlands, France, Sweden, Bulgaria, Belarus, Luxembourg

Group B:

Portugal, Switzerland, Hungary, Faroe Islands, Latvia, Andorra

Group C:

Germany, Czech Republic, Northern Ireland, Norway, Azerbaijan, San Marino

Group D: 

Wales, Austria, Serbia, Republic of Ireland, Moldova, Georgia

Group E:

Romania, Denmark, Poland, Montenegro, Armenia, Kazakhstan

Group F: 

England, Slovakia, Scotland, Slovenia, Lithuania, Malta

Group G:

Spain, Italy, Albania, Israel, Macedonia, Liechtenstein

Group H:

Belgium, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Greece, Estonia, Cyprus

Group I:

Croatia, Iceland, Ukraine, Turkey, Finland.



It is the first time England and Scotland have been drawn together to play a World Cup match, although the home nations championship did act as a qualifying competition for the 1950 and 1954 World Cups.

England and Scotland first played each other 143 years ago - the first ever international - and also met in a play-off for Euro 2000, where England went through 2-0 on aggregate.

England manager Roy Hodgson said of the Scotland games:

"We have had two very highly competitive friendlies against Scotland over the last year.

"For the mass media that's the fixture that is going to capture the imagination. England v Scotland fixtures go back a long, long way in history and there has been many a fierce encounter along the way.

"Slovenia are a good team as are Slovakia, Lithuania and Malta are experienced at this level so I think it will be a very competitive group.

"We are happy with the group it's just a question now of trying to make certain that the players can handle it."

Hodgson insisted the games against Scotland would be played in the right spirit.

He added: "It is a very fierce rivalry and that's good. It's not fierce on the field as the games are played in absolutely the right spirit. 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.

"So let's make certain we keep talk of fierce and intense rivalry to the many fixtures back in the past that people refer to."

Hodgson also rejected suggestions that England should be regarded as outright favourites to win the group.

He said: "We need to be careful before we start describing ourselves as overwhelming favourites. We have to make certain we respect all our opponents and remain fully conscious that every time we don't go on the field and do our job to 100 per cent we could lose."

Hodgson's current contract expires after the Euro 2016 finals next July and the 67-year-old said he would love to be given the chance to coach the national side in the World Cup qualifying campaign.

He said: "It's not something I want to give up lightly but if the FA want me to stay on I would be delighted to do so."

Wales manager Chris Coleman said he would relish the chance to cross swords with Martin O'Neill.

Coleman said:

"I know Martin very well and there will be a couple of juicy games against the Republic of Ireland.

"There were a lot of teams in there you don't really want, can do without that, and say some groups may have been better for us and some worse.

"What we have learned in the last campaign is that we concentrate on ourselves rather than worrying about the opposition and I say that with all due respect.

"We have had a good run, and this will be a good group with great games. Serbia are on the rise as well and Austria, Moldova and Georgia is never easy."

Northern Ireland will have to face World Cup winners Germany and Irish FA chief executive Patrick Nelson said: "When Germany came out we just thought what a great competition this is going to be. Any group with Germany in it is going to be difficult but it's going to be exciting.

"Qualifying for the World Cup is tough, there are 13 slots and you have to finish in the top two, with second place to make sure of a play-off.

"We are playing really well in the Euro 2016 qualifiers at the moment, our FIFA ranking is 37, we were in pot three for the draw and were pot five when we started the campaign, so we are on the up.

"All the matches will be exciting - we didn't do very well against Azerbaijan the last time we came up against them so we will be looking to improve."

— PA Sports

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