Roy Hodgson believes England and Scotland are both happy to have been draw with each other in a 2018 World Cup qualifying group.
The oldest international football match in history will be played twice more as they both battle to reach the Finals in Russia, after they were paired together in Group F. Slovakia, Slovenia, Lithuania and Malta have also been drawn in the same group, but there is no question which tie will catch the imagination of the public, and Hodgson believes both sides will relish the double header.
“There was always a chance we were going to get a local derby,” the England boss told the BBC. “The Scotland fixture really does excite people. We have got recent experience of what the atmosphere will be like. The games will excite the public, get people in the mass media excited too. It is a good draw all round – I think Scotland will be happy with it and we are happy with it.”
England have been present at every World Cup Finals after failing to qualify for USA ’94, but they haven’t progressed past the last eight since 1990. Even so, it is a better record than the Scots who have never made it past the group stage of the Finals and have failed to qualify for every tournament since 1998. But playing their archrivals over two legs could spur them on this time round.
“It is a draw that has made a lot of people happy,” the national coach of the Scottish side, Gordon Strachan, said about the group draw. “The coaching staff are happy because we’ve got a lot of teams we haven’t faced recently and there are a lot of delirious fans here because it is a fantastic fixture and I think the whole of Scotland and England will be looking forward to it.”
Meanwhile, Wales, who have impressed of late and will be looking to qualify for the first time since 1958, have been drawn in Group D with the Republic of Ireland, plus Austria, Serbia Moldova and Georgia. And Northern Ireland face the daunting task of taking on world champions Germany in Group C, as well as the Czech Republic, Norway, Azerbaijan and San Marino.
Elsewhere, Spain and Italy have been drawn in Group G along with Albania, Israel, Macedonia and Liechtenstein, and in Group A Holland must take on France, as well as Sweden, Bulgaria, Belarus and Luxembourg. The first round of group fixtures are scheduled to take place in September 2016, and will be concluded in November 2017 some seven months before the Finals.
Russia have already qualified as hosts. They will be joined by the nine group winners who will qualify automatically, whilst the eight best runners-up will go into play-offs.