England to face Poland in 2022 World Cup qualifiers
England face familiar qualifying foes Poland on the road to the Qatar World Cup in 2022.
The Poles, whose star striker Robert Lewandowski has arguably been the best player in the world in 2020, have faced the Three Lions in qualifying for the 1974, 1990, 1994, 2006 and 2014 World Cups, as well as taking on England in the finals in Mexico in 1986.
England and Poland also met in qualifying for the 1992 and 2000 European Championships.
Gareth Southgate’s men have also been drawn against Hungary, Albania, Andorra and San Marino in matches which will be played between March and November next year.
Southgate reckons England have been dealt a “complicated” path to Qatar.
He said: “Poland are a very good team, Hungary have just been promoted to the Nations League top division. We know these games are going to be tough, complicated games to navigate.
“There’s a great history of that fixture (England v Poland). There was a spell when we seemed to draw them every time.”
Asked about Poland’s star striker Lewandowski, Southgate said: “He’s a fantastic player.
He’s a player that can hurt you and his goalscoring record for his country is phenomenally good
“He’s as good a number nine as there is – him and Harry (Kane) and (Romelu) Lukaku when you think about number nines around Europe, they’re three that immediately come to mind.
“He’s a player that can hurt you and his goalscoring record for his country is phenomenally good.”
Wales face the world’s number one-ranked team, Belgium, in Group E alongside the Czech Republic, Belarus and Estonia.
Wales earned one of their most famous victories against the Belgians when they beat them in the quarter-finals of Euro 2016.
Caretaker Wales manager Robert Page was satisfied with the draw, with his side unbeaten in their last four games against the Red Devils.
Page, who continues to stand in for absent boss Ryan Giggs, said: “If you look at the last four games, we’ve got a good record against them.
“I’d like to think they’ll be looking at us as a nation moving forward. They’ll be fully aware of our results and will be looking at us with a little bit more respect maybe. We’re pretty pleased with the group.”
Scotland are up against Denmark, Austria, Israel, the Faroe Islands and Moldova in Group F as they seek a first World Cup qualification since 1998.
The Scots lost to Israel in a Nations League match last month.
Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland have been placed in five-team groups.
The Republic face reigning European champions Portugal, as well as Serbia, Luxembourg and Azerbaijan in Group A, while Northern Ireland face a tough group against Italy, Switzerland, Bulgaria and Lithuania.
Northern Ireland manager Ian Baraclough told Sky Sports News: “We’re really pleased with a five-team group, I think that was something we were looking for.
“We knew we were going to come up against two tough teams from pot one and pot two and I think Bulgaria are probably one of the toughest teams we could have got from pot four as well. But it’s going to be certainly competitive.
“There’s only three Northern Ireland managers who have qualified for major tournaments, so for me it would be a massive achievement, and not just for me, for the whole country. These group stages are something our supporters really look forward to.
“Hopefully we have fans back roaring at Windsor Park because that really helps us, and we’ve missed that.”
The Republic faced Portugal in qualifying for the 2002 World Cup, but their most recent match against them was a 5-1 friendly defeat just before the 2014 finals.
Manager Stephen Kenny told Sky Sports News: “It is an exciting group. Portugal are the European champions and the Nations League champions, and Serbia of course have great pedigree.
“Luxembourg are a vastly improved team, and Azerbaijan. So it is an exciting group, and the fact that it is a five-team group means we’ve not got the congested three competitive games in the window in March, so it means back to the more traditional two.
“It’s an interesting group for us.
“To lose to Slovakia on penalties was difficult for the players. They worked so hard and performed so well on the night.
“It’s a new campaign and I think we’ll have a lot of players back from March, and I think that is exciting. We have to do our utmost to try to qualify.”
England and Scotland, in six-team groups, are set to play three qualifiers in March, three more in September, two in October and two in November.
Nations League finalists Belgium, Italy, Spain and France were placed in five-team groups to enable them to complete that competition next October.
The 10 group winners qualify for the finals which will be played in November and December 2022, to avoid the summer heat in Qatar, with a further three teams qualifying via the play-offs to be played in March 2022.
The play-offs will be a 12-team tournament comprised of the 10 group runners-up plus the two highest-ranked teams from the Nations League who did not finish in the top two of any group.
The 12 teams will be split into three paths, with the winner of each securing qualification.