Football

European giants handed tricky paths to Qatar 2022

World Cup champions France were handed an awkward qualifying draw for Qatar 2022 yesterday morning (Singapore time), with Ukraine and Bosnia and Herzegovina standing in their way, while England will face Robert Lewandowski and Poland in their group.

Gareth Southgate's England, semi-finalists in Russia 2018, will also take on Hungary and Albania as well as two of international football's minnows, Andorra and San Marino, in Group I.

France will also face Finland - who recently beat Les Bleus in a friendly in Paris - in Group D, with Kazakhstan completing the group.

Didier Deschamps' side are in a group of just five teams because they will be involved in Nations League Finals in Italy next October.

One of the most significant results of Deschamps' time as France coach came in qualifying for the 2014 World Cup, when his side faced Ukraine in a deciding play-off. They lost 2-0 in the first leg in Kiev before winning 3-0 in the return.

"A qualifying campaign is always a long road where there can be pitfalls," Deschamps said. "It is better to avoid them."

As for England, it is the seventh time they have been drawn with Poland in World Cup qualifying.

Their most recent encounters came in the campaign for the 2014 Finals, with the sides drawing 1-1 in Warsaw before England triumphed 2-0 at Wembley.

"There's a great history of that fixture. There was a spell when we seemed to draw them every time," said Southgate.

Germany, whose coach Joachim Loew has been under severe pressure after poor recent results, will be expected to come through a group in which Romania and Iceland appear their main threats. - REUTERS

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