England's football team seem to have been dealt a favourable draw for the qualifying stages for the 2018 World Cup. Of the five teams that they will need to overcome, only their old foes, the Scots should cause them concern and then mainly because of the bitter rivalry that can creep into their contests. In the aftermath of the draw, a side issue has arisen in terms of the uncertainty around Roy Hodgson's future in charge of the national team, with the man himself questioning the fairness of effectively leaving his future in limbo for now.
Favourable World Cup qualifying draw
The current squad can have few qualms about their upcoming opponents in Group F, with the five other teams drawn alongside them being:
Aside from Scotland, England should be able to glean the bulk of the points from their remaining eight matches to put the pressure on the Scots to do likewise and match them. Indeed, should they take all three points from their clash at Wembley in November 2016, then the return tie at Hampden Park in June of 2017 may already see England in a commanding position in the group.
The Scots have been re-energised under Gordon Strachan though and are still heavily in the mix in terms of Euro qualification themselves. They currently sit third in Group D behind Germany and surprise leaders, Poland as they approach the crucial final fixtures.
Hodgson was certainly full of confidence after the World Cup draw, admitting England's fortune but being equally bullish in stating that he "would have been confident whichever teams we drew." He was also pleased to have spared the players and perhaps more importantly the supporters away trips to some of Europe's more remote outposts. Having already faced Slovenia and Lithuania in the current Euro qualification campaign and beaten them, he should be confident of England repeating the feat again.
With 2016 European Championship qualification seemingly almost confirmed, Hodgson seems content with the progress being made by the current crop of players. Yet he will be all too well aware that the draw for that competition was also favourable to England's chances of reaching the finals. The issue as ever with the national side will be how they can step up to defeat the cream of Europe in France in 2016. In some respects, tougher qualification draws (assuming that they ultimately qualify that is) would better prepare them for the challenges at the finals themselves.
Will Hodgson oversee World Cup qualification?
Of course 67-year-old Hodgson would ideally know that he would be leading England into the next World Cup qualifying campaign but that decision has been deferred for now. A strong tournament at the Euros would strengthen his hand; an early departure and he may have instead to watch on from the side lines as someone else takes on the mantle.
He has already been in charge for three years, overseeing their run to the quarter-finals at Euro 2012 and the abject manner in which they bowed out after the group stages at the World Cup finals last year. His current contract ensures his managerial position up to the end of Euro 2016 but no longer. It is believed that he is not best pleased with that state of affairs, with a contract extension until the end of Russia 2018 being his preference. Results in the meantime will decide his fate one way or another. #Football #Worldcup 2014 #Euro2016