Football: England handed easy draw for Qatar World Cup 2022

Former Brazilian footballer and World Cup winner Cafu displays the name of England during the draw in Doha. PHOTO: AFP

Could it really be coming home this time?

England fans will no doubt be counting down the days until the World Cup kicks off on Nov 21, after the tournament’s draw on Friday (April 1).

While 2010 champions Spain were drawn with 2014 winners Germany and Japan in Group E, the Three Lions found themselves in Group B, alongside the United States, Iran and one of Wales, Scotland or Ukraine.

It might well be the group with the most complex geo-political situation between the teams involved, but also the one with with the most straightforward football equation.

Few would bet against Gareth Southgate’s men easing into the knockout rounds. His charges have a good omen too, after the draw threw up a tournament opening day fixture with Iran.

The last time they played on the opening day of the World Cup was in 1966, which was is the only time they ever won the competition.

Still, this is England.

The last time they met the United States at the World Cup, in 2010, goalkeeper Robert Green dropped a clanger as they were held to an unexpected 1-1 draw, before eventually losing in the knockout round to old rivals Germany.

Plus, if they top the group as many expect and get past their round-of-16 tie, they could well run into defending champions France in the quarter-finals.

Oh well, so much for dreaming, eh?

While last night’s draw did not throw up a clear "Group of Death", there were plenty of intriguing subplots that could play out in just under eight months.

This is quite likely the last World Cup to feature Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, the two best players of their generation. Messi’s Argentina were drawn in Group C alongside Poland, Mexico and Saudi Arabia, and Ronaldo’s Portugal were picked in Group H with Uruguay, Ghana and South Korea.

If both their countries top their respective groups, a Messi v Ronaldo final is on the cards. Just imagine what that would be like. A final to decide the question that has raged for a decade-and-a-half: Who is the better player?

It would be a fitting end to the Qatar World Cup too, to see a glorious end for one of them, given this edition marks the end of the 32-team format before it is expanded in 2026.

Human rights concerns and allegations of vote-buying have made the Qatar World Cup the most controversial in history, but the pageantry of the draw ceremony made many forget any of that, at least for the night.

There was the coolness of award-winning British actor Idris Elba, the grace of renowned broadcaster Reshmin Chowdhury, the slickness of freestylers juggling the official Al Rihla ball, and the sheer extravagance of the stage at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre provided entertainment and pomp.

There were also tributes to fallen World Cup greats, like Diego Maradona, Paolo Rossi, Gerd Muller and Gordon Banks, before the likes of Cafu and Lothar Matthaus stepped on stage for the main act – the draw itself.

Fifa president Gianni Infantino, upon stepping on stage, said: “It’s getting serious.”

For many, that is precisely the case.

Draw as follows:

Group A: Qatar, Ecuador, Senegal, Netherlands

Group B: England, Iran, United States, European play-off winners (Scotland/Wales/Ukraine)

Group C: Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Poland

Group D: France, Intercontinental play-off winners 1 (United Arab Emirates/Australia/Peru), Denmark, Tunisia

Group E: Spain, Intercontinental play-off winners 2 (Costa Rica v New Zealand), Germany, Japan

Group F: Belgium, Canada, Morocco, Croatia

Group G: Brazil, Serbia, Switzerland, Cameroon

Group H: Portugal, Ghana, Uruguay, South Korea

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