England get favourable draw with familiar faces
England face another qualification meeting with Montenegro
England have been handed a favourable 2014 World Cup qualifying group that includes the likes of Montenegro and Ukraine.
Fabio Capello’s successor will be confident of leading the Three Lions to the tournament in Brazil in just under three years, as Poland, Moldova and San Marino rounded out the 1966 champion’s Group H as the draw was made in Brazil on Saturday.
England have faced a number of their opponents recently – with Montenegro in their current Euro 2012 group and Ukraine one of the sides they overcame on the way to last summer’s World Cup.
The winners of the nine European groups qualify automatically, while the eight best runners-up play off for the four places remaining.
It is 45 years ago since England won their one and only World Cup – and 91 years today since Uruguay triumphed in the very first World Cup final – and although it should be a straightforward task it will not be a walkover.
“England WC qualifying group is similar to most qualifying campaigns, some tricky away games but have to be looking to qualify top,” defender Rio Ferdinand said on Twitter.
Capello, meanwhile, said it will not be an easy task for his successor: “It is not an easy draw. You have to be really, really focused and play every game like a final – but that will be another manager’s job. I’m focused on my job now to qualify for the Euros.
“We know Montenegro very well and we have to play against them again. Poland are improving and will be really focused and will be tough opponents. With Ukraine I remember the game we lost against them in the last match during the qualification for South Africa.
“Moldova are not so strong and San Marino the same.”
Elsewhere, Wales and Scotland have been paired together in Group A, in what looks like being a difficult campaign alongside Serbia, Croatia, Belgium and Macedonia.
The Republic of Ireland will have to overcome Germany, Sweden, Austria, the Faroe Islands and Kazakhstan to book their place at the tournament, while Northern Ireland will face double-headers against Portugal, Russia, Israel, Azerbaijan and Luxembourg.
Other tasty European draws see defending champions Spain paired with France in a five-team Group I, while 2006 winners Italy will expect their stiffest challenges to come from Denmark and Czech Republic.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter opened the draw by reiterating that the game’s governing body had confidence that Brazil would overcome early complications to be ready for the tournament on time.
“We need the support of the government of Brazil, the state governments, the organising committee and the 190 million fans of football that is the population of Brazil,” Blatter said. ”It is a matter of trust and confidence and FIFA have trust in Brazil and are confident of its abilities.
”Football is the beating heart of Brazil. It is a multi-cultural country of joy and celebration blessed with natural beauty and a booming economy ranking number seven in the world.”
Full World Cup 2014 qualification groups
European Zone Group I: Spain, France, Belarus, Georgia, Finland Group H: England, Montenegro, Ukraine, Poland, Moldova, San Marino Group G: Greece, Slovakia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Lithuania, Latvia, Lichtenstein Group F: Portugal, Russia, Israel, Northern Ireland, Azerbaijan, Luxembourg Group E: Norway, Slovenia, Switzerland, Albania, Cyprus, Iceland Group D: Netherlands, Turkey, Hungary, Romania, Estonia, Andorra Group C: Germany, Sweden, Republic of Ireland, Austria, Faroe Islands, Kazakhstan Group B: Italy, Denmark, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Armenia, Malta Group A: Croatia, Serbia, Belgium, Scotland, Macedonia, Wales
African Zone Group A: South Africa, Botswana, Central African Republic, Somalia or Ethiopia Group B: Tunisia, Cape Verde Islands, Sierra Leone, Equatorial Guinea or Madagascar Group C: Cote d’Ivoire, Morocco, Gambia, Chad or Tanzania Group D: Ghana, Zambia, Sudan, Lesotho or Burundi Group E: Burkina Faso, Gabon, Niger, Sao Tome e Principe or Congo Group F: Nigeria, Malawi, Seychelles or Kenya, Djibouti or Namibia Group G: Egypt, Guinea, Zimbabwe, Comoros or Mozambique Group H: Algeria, Mali, Benin, Eritrea or Rwanda Group I: Cameroon, Libya, Guinea-Bissau or Togo, Swaziland or Congo DR Group J: Senegal, Uganda, Angola, Mauritius or Liberia
Asian Zone Group A: China, Jordan, Iraq, Singapore Group B: Korea Republic, Kuwait, UAE, Lebanon Group C: Japan, Uzbekistan, Syria, Korea DPR Group D: Australia, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Thailand Group E: Iran, Qatar, Bahrain, Indonesia
CONCACAF Zone Round Two Group A: El Salvador, Surinam, Cayman Islands, Dominican Republic Group B: Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana, Barbados, Bermuda Group C: Panama, Dominica, Nicaragua, Bahamas Group D: Canada, St. Kitts & Nevis, Puerto Rico, St Lucia Group E: Grenada, Guatemala, St Vincent/ Grenadines, Belize Group F: Haiti, Antigua and Barbuda, Curacao, US Virgin Island
Round Three Group A: USA, Jamaica, Winner of R2 Grp E, Winner of R2 Grp F Group B: Mexico, Costa Rica, Winner of R2 Grp A, Winner of R2 Grp B Group C: Honduras, Cuba, Winner of R2 Grp D, Winner of R2 Grp C
With Brazil automatically qualified as hosts, the other nine South American teams all comprise one group – bidding for four automatic qualifying spots and one play-off berth.