The 2022 World Cup group stage draw is set for Friday when England will discover their fate ahead of the tournament in Qatar later this year. Gareth Southgate will be looking to take his squad one step further after progress across the last two major tournaments.
England reached the semi-finals at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, falling to a 2-1 defeat against Croatia. But the Three Lions went one step further at last year’s delayed Euro 2020, making Wembley Stadium dream before crumbling against Italy on penalties in the final.
Following a dominant qualifying campaign and the wealth of quality at Southgate’s disposal, England will enter November’s tournament again as one of the favourites. And the nation’s three opponents in the group stage could be a significant indicator of how far they will go.
Pot 1 contains hosts Qatar, along with the seven top countries on the new FIFA World Rankings, published on Thursday. The rankings also decide the participants in Pots 2 and 3. Pot 4 features the five lowest-ranked countries and the winners of the three outstanding play-offs.
Express Sport draws out the dream and nightmare scenarios for Southgate and Co. this winter.
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Dream: England, United States, Tunisia, Ecuador
If the tides turn in England’s favour, they could be handed a routine a group to navigate through at the start of their campaign. From Pot 2, Mexico, Uruguay or Switzerland could be deemed favourable, but the United States stand out.
There are some potential banana skins in Pot 3, but Tunisia are the most favourable option after squeezing past Mali 1-0 on aggregate in their play-off showdown. Saudi Arabia stand out due to their lack of pedigree, but Herve Renard’s side were unbeaten in qualifying. Ecuador only finished fourth in their group, with seven wins and six losses.
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Nightmare: England, Germany, Senegal, Wales
England could face the Netherlands, Denmark or Croatia in the group stage, but a vengeful Germany could be on the agenda after dropping out of Euro 2020 at Wembley. From Pot 3, AFCON champions Senegal are just as dangerous, whilst Serbia and Poland would also pose a threat.
Canada seem to be a fan-favourite nation due to personalities like Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David; they aren’t bad players either. But Wales will expect to beat Scotland or Ukraine in their play-off final, and as England experienced with the Scots at Euro 2020, they will undoubtedly be hungry for British bragging rights.