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England favoured in relatively easy World Cup draw

29th Apr 2022
England favoured in relatively easy World Cup draw

Serbia’s Bora Milutinovic, Qatar’s Ahmed MalAllah, Germany’s Lothar Matthaus, and Brazil’s Cafu, announce the draw results at the FIFA World Cup 2022 group stage draw on April 1, 2022 in Doha, Qatar.(Credit: Mohammed Dabbous/Anadolu Agency)

Hamed Chapman

England have been favoured with a relatively easy set of opening FIFA World Cup games, uncommonly slated towards the end of 2022 due to the heat in Qatar and at a time when the nation is considered to have its best chance since last winning the tournament back in 1966.

Gareth Southgate’s side is due to face Iran, whom they have never met at the senior level but has political overtones, in their first match on the opening day on November 21 before having another World Cup encounter with the US on November 25.

Their final match on November 29 will be against the qualifiers from the remaining European spot that is still to be determined, with Scotland and Wales in contention with Ukraine, with the play-offs between them delayed until June.

The group is rated as the weakest among eight, with England again enjoying favourable draws as they did in Russia four years ago, but ending up second behind Belgium after beating Tunisia and Panama in their first two matches and going on to lose their first World Cup semi-final since 1990.

For Iran, it is their sixth appearance in the World Cup finals, including the last two in 2018 and 2022, but they have never advanced beyond the group stage. Their record includes their first-ever victory in the series against arch-rival the US back in 1978 and also against Morocco, their only other win in 2018.

Apart from the US, Iran has previously encountered Scotland, who have also never advanced past the first round, and their game in 1974 resulted in a draw. Wales has not qualified for the tournament since 1958.

Ukraine have appeared in the World Cup only once, in 2006, when they reached the quarter-finals. If anything, the US has been a bit of a bogey team for England, not only drawing with them when it was held in South Africa in 2010, but causing an upset by actually defeating the English national team in their first World Cup encounter in Brazil in 1950.

England has rarely played up to its potential in football despite being the country’s national game, even effectively boycotting the World Cup during the first 20 years after the World Cup was launched in 1930.

Yet, despite not winning the tournament since hosting it more than half a century ago in 1966, expectations are frequently built up in the media at every event, only to often falter and fail.

Coming so close to winning the delayed UEFA European Championship last year has only renewed hopes for lifting the Jules Rimet Trophy in Qatar, the first Muslim country to host it.

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