Turkey avoids football giants in World Cup draw
AFP photoTurkey will compete in a relatively easy group in the qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, after it avoided being paired with the powerhouses of European football.
Turkey was drawn in Group I of the qualification stage at the ceremony on July 25 in St. Petersburg, along with Croatia, Iceland, Ukraine and Finland. Despite being in the fourth spot due to its subdued form in the recent years, Turkey was lucky not to have any of the football giants such as Spain, Germany, the Netherlands or England in its group.
The winners of the nine European groups qualify automatically for the World Cup, with the eight best runners-up facing off in two-legged playoffs for the remaining four spots.
England will renew one of the oldest rivalries in football against Scotland in qualifying for the World Cup after they were paired together at a lavish ceremony on July 25.
But both will be glad to have avoided groups that threw together 1998 champion France with the Netherlands and a Sweden side captained by Paris Saint-Germain star Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Former winners Spain and Italy were also paired.
World champion Germany was put against the Czech Republic, Northern Ireland, Norway, Azerbaijan and San Marino in the draw.
England and Scotland have not met competitively since England won a playoff 2-1 on aggregate to qualify for the 2000 European Championships. They will also face Slovakia, Slovenia, Lithuania and Malta in Group F.
“I think it is a good draw. We’ve got countries we know and we respect,” said England manager Roy Hodgson.
“Scotland is the standout fixture for everybody because of the fierce rivalry between the two, but when I look at some of the other groups I think the fixtures on paper look harder than our fixtures on paper.”
A Wayne Rooney double inspired England to a 3-1 victory when the two sides met in a friendly in November and Scotland boss Gordon Strachan believes that match can serve as motivation for his side.
“I can see why the fans are celebrating, it’s a fantastic fixture I think the whole of Scotland and England can look forward to,” he told Sky Sports.
“In saying that, as coaches, we are looking forward to pitting our wits against teams we have not played against for a long time.
“The last time the two sides met England stepped it up a gear and it was a fantastic lesson - they pressurize you and you make mistakes and that’s something that sticks with us - and I hope will stick with us to fire us on,” he said.
Group D sees another local clash, as top seeds Wales will meet the Republic of Ireland as well as Austria, Serbia, Moldova and Georgia.