England have been drawn against Iran, the US, and one of Wales, Scotland, or Ukraine in the group stage of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Gareth Southgate watched on as his side were drawn into Group B in Doha.
The Three Lions were the second team drawn out of the pot, after the hosts in Group A.
England will be hoping to go one better than at last summer’s Euros, when they lost in the final to Italy on penalties.
Southgate’s team came agonisingly close to reaching the last World Cup final before losing 2-1 to Croatia in Russia in the semi-final in 2018.
That would have been the Three Lions’ first World Cup final since 1966, their sole triumph on the biggest stage.
England qualified for this winter’s tournament in style, winning eight and drawing two of their matches.
But there remains some uncertainty about exactly who they will face, along with Iran and the US.
How Wales and Scotland can reach the finals
Wales face a play-off to reach the finals, against either Scotland or Ukraine. Their match to decide who plays Wales, postponed because of Russia’s invasion, is set for June.
The winners then take on Wales for a place in Qatar.
The Welsh are aiming to make it to the finals for the first time since 1958; the Scots last reached the finals in 1998.
Southgate pleased to avoid the strongest sides
Speaking after the draw, Southgate refused to say he was happy, but admitted that he was pleased to avoid the strongest sides.
He said: “When you’re seeded, you get the advantage of missing out on some of the other big teams.
“The US is an interesting one. I know Gregg [Berhalter, USA manager], we talk often, in fact we spoke only a couple of weeks ago. They’ve got some good players, so that’s an intriguing one.
“The first two teams [USA and Iran] we have not played for quite a while and the third is unknown but throws up a possible British derby – and we know what they are all about.”
Not too tough and could yet be really special
It could have been far worse for Gareth Southgate – USA and Iran were some of the kinder options available.
Not easy, but not daunting for an England side that so narrowly missed out on winning the Euros.
The wildcard of the last European play-off winners drawn as the final team in Group B sets up something a bit special.
England have never played Wales, Scotland, or Ukraine in a World Cup match.
Each would be a fascinating fixture.
Wales have taken one step forward and will play the winners of Scotland vs Ukraine – it should be decided in June.
A team representing a country at war would be a hugely powerful moment but a British showdown would also capture imaginations.
The Tartan Army, Scotland’s famous fans, liven up any tournament and for Wales it would be their first appearance since a 17-year-old called Pele broke Welsh hearts in 1958.
This is what the World Cup is capable of – creating moments that define so many lives. It’s precisely why Qatar wanted a piece of it.
Berhalter said he’s hoping Wales and Scotland are disappointed.
“With Ukraine, you’re pulling for them for because of everything that’s happening there, so I hope they make it,” admitted the US coach.
The England game, he said, was “an exciting match-up”, and Iran was “a tough opponent”.
Former England striker, Gary Lineker, called it “something to look forward to” on Twitter.
England, USA, Iran and Scotland or Wales. Now that is something to look forward to.
— Gary Lineker 💙💛 (@GaryLineker)
The rest of the draw
Qatar – a controversial choice
The 2022 tournament has been mired in controversy since it was awarded to the Gulf State in 2010, to widespread surprise – not least because of the climate.
The event has been moved from summer to November and December to cope with the extreme heat.
Critics have also pointed to the treatment of migrant workers and the country’s poor record of human rights.