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qatar 2022 England handed dream World Cup draw – and possible ‘Battle of Britain’


England Gareth Southgate, who attended the World Cup draw in Doha saw his side get tied with the USA, Iran, and possibly Scotland, Wales or Ukraine. Photo: PA/Reuters

England Gareth Southgate, who attended the World Cup draw in Doha saw his side get tied with the USA, Iran, and possibly Scotland, Wales or Ukraine. Photo: PA/Reuters

England Gareth Southgate, who attended the World Cup draw in Doha saw his side get tied with the USA, Iran, and possibly Scotland, Wales or Ukraine. Photo: PA/Reuters

England face a potential first World Cup “Battle of Britain” after drawing the winner of the delayed European play-offs between Wales, Scotland and Ukraine.

In a favourable draw for Gareth Southgate’s squad in Qatar, the nation dodged Germany and will instead face the United States and Iran in their other group games.

England will hope it is third time lucky against the US, having lost 1-0 in 1950 in Brazil and then slipped to a 1-1 draw in 2010 after Rob Green’s goalkeeping howler.

A draw against Iran is equally notable, coming weeks after the UK finally secured the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who had been held without charge for six years by the Gulf state.

However, it is England’s last group match that will grab the biggest headlines, as they will play either Wales or Scotland or war-torn Ukraine.

England will face one of the neighbouring nations if either of those sides emerge victorious from their European play-off path in June, which also involves Ukraine.

Southgate expressed excitement over what he described as a “possible British derby”, but added: “In this situation all of our thoughts are with the people of Ukraine, so when that tie is played is irrelevant, really”. He also insisted the group would be more testing than some might expect.

The US - a young team spearheaded by Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic - and Iran represent a relatively inviting path for England to qualify for the second round, potentially against Senegal or Holland.

“Our first objective is to get out of the group and then we build from there,” Southgate, who attended the draw in Doha, said. “When you’re seeded you get the advantage of missing out on those big six or seven teams. Most of the first seeds would be pleased with the group they got.

“There are some highly ranked teams in pot two. The US are an interesting one. They’ve got some good players and we know what they could be capable of, so that in particular is an intriguing one.”

England begin their World Cup campaign on the opening day of the tournament against Iran on Monday, November 21. But Qatar will kick off the first match of the Doha showpiece against Ecuador.

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Being drawn in Group B means England cannot face one of the sides who were in pot one based on their world ranking in the last 16. England and Scotland have never met in a World Cup finals, but did so at last summer’s Euro 2020 tournament, with the game finishing goalless.

Wales and England have also never met in a World Cup finals, but came face to face in the group stage of Euro 2016, with England winning 2-1. Iran were the second team drawn to face England. The sides have never met in a senior international, but will now go head to head.

Reflecting on the prospect of facing England, Rob Page, Wales’s caretaker manager, said: “Of course it whets the appetite. We have been waiting years and years for this opportunity, so trust me when I say there will be no stone unturned.

“We will have a group of lads ready, and throw everything at this opportunity. Yes, it is a mouth-watering tie, potentially. Scotland will be thinking the same, but our full focus is on getting there.”

England’s first game takes place eight days after the Premier League takes a six-week break, but Harry Kane expressed excitement at the fixture schedule. “Playing on the opening day will be incredible as well,” the England captain said.

The fixture against the US has added significance for Southgate as his team will be pitted against Gregg Berhalter, who has become a friend. “I have known Gareth since 2019 when I took over the job,” he said. “We have maintained contact and bounced ideas off each other. It is a strong relationship.”

Southgate said in response: “I’ve met Gregg a lot recently, so we’ve had some good chats and he’s got them vastly improved. The third one is going to be a highly emotional game whoever it is. We all know where our thoughts are with Ukraine and we have to see whether they are even able to play or not.

“Of course, if it’s one of the British teams, we’ve been through that in tournaments recently. So they become unique games, really. Form is totally out of the window.”

Reigning champions France are in Group D while Brazil, who returned to No 1 in the world rankings on March 31, are in Group G.

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Telegraph Media Group Limited [2021]

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