England were handed a favourable draw for the 2022 World Cup as they were paired with United States and Iran. Scotland or Wales will join them in Group B if they qualify through the playoffs.
Gareth Southgate’s side will face Iran – whom they have never met at senior level – in their first match on November 21st before another World Cup meeting with the USA on November 25th. Their final match on November 29th will be against the qualifiers from the remaining European spot that is still to be determined, with Scotland and Wales in contention with Ukraine.
Scotland’s playoff was originally scheduled for March 24th but was postponed last month after Russia invaded Ukraine. The tie is due to take place in June, with the winners facing Wales in Cardiff.
The winners of Group B could face France in the quarter-finals after the world champions were drawn in Group D with Denmark, Tunisia and the winners of the playoff between Peru and the United Arab Emirates or Australia.
Qatar were handed a difficult group that includes the Netherlands, the African champions Senegal and Ecuador, whom the hosts will meet in the opening match on November 21st. That will take place at the Al Bayt Stadium, 35km from the capital, Doha, with precise venues for all other fixtures to be determined.
Elsewhere, the 2010 winners, Spain, were paired with the 2014 winners, Germany, in Group E along with Japan and the winners of the playoff between Costa Rica and New Zealand, while the five-time winners Brazil will be in Group G with Switzerland and Serbia, having been drawn with both countries in 2018.
The draw – presented by Idris Elba, Reshmin Chowdhury and Jermaine Jenas – opened with a message in Arabic from the Egyptian actor Sherihan. “We welcome the entire world with open arms,” she said.
Fifa's president Gianni Infantino said: "This World Cup will simply be the best World Cup ever, the greatest show on Earth. The world will be united in Qatar."
This will be the first World Cup hosted by an Arab or Muslim country, although the decision to award the tournament to Qatar in December 2010 has been heavily criticised since over human rights concerns.
England drew 1-1 with the USA in their opening match at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and will face Gregg Berhalter’s side in their second match. England have enjoyed favourable draws in recent tournaments but ended up second behind Belgium in their group in Russia four years ago after beating Tunisia and Panama in their first two matches.
Southgate’s side went on to lose their first World Cup semi-final since 1990 after taking an early lead against Croatia in Moscow.
Reacting to the draw, Southgate said: [The US and Iran] are teams we’ve not played for a while and the third is an unknown but throws up a possible British derby.”
Southgate told the BBC: “In this situation all of our thoughts are with the people of Ukraine, so when that tie is played out is irrelevant really. For us we’re [playing] on day one so it’s quite clear now what our programme looks like with the end of the Premier League season and getting out here as quickly as possible.”
Gary Neville, former England defender, told Sky Sports: “The Ukraine/Wales/Scotland conundrum – each of those, whether it be a home nation or Ukraine at this moment in time, brings a level of real passion and emotion and feeling for different reasons.
“And Iran, relations at government level between Iran, England, USA over the last 20-30 years has not always been great so there will a lot of interest in that game.”
France’s title defence features a clash with Euro 2020 semi-finalists Denmark, who Didier Deschamps’s side will play twice in the Nations League before the global tournament. The 2018 champions, with one of the game’s most exciting players in Kylian Mbappe, also face Tunisia and the winners of the playoff series between the United Arab Emirates, Australia and Peru.
“It could have been easier or harder,” said Deschamps. “We know Denmark well and we’ll get to know each other even better with our matches in the Nations League in June and September.”