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Who are England’s World Cup 2022 qualifying opponents?

3:44 AM MYT 08/12/2020
Southgate/Grealish England 2020
Robert Lewandowski is likely to be the man standing between the Three Lions and a place in Qatar

Gareth Southgate’s England have been paired with Poland, Hungary, Albania, Andorra and San Marino in World Cup qualifying.

Only the winner of Group I is guaranteed a spot at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, and the Three Lions will have to be on their mettle when they take on Poland in particular.

Hungary are an emerging force and could be a potential banana skin for Southgate’s side, while it would be a major surprise were the team to drop points against Albania, Andorra or San Marino.

Qualifying will get underway on March 24, 2021 before concluding in the middle of November.

The winner of the group will advance to the finals, but there is a second chance for the runners-up who will take part in the playoffs in March 2022.

So who are England’s opponents for World Cup qualifying?

Poland

FIFA ranking : 19

Coach : Jerzy Brzeczek

Star man : The key to Poland progressing is likely to be the shooting boots of Robert Lewandowski. The Bayern Munich man is one of the finest finishers in the game and England will need to be wary not to give him any freedom in the box.

Competitive record : England have an excellent record against Poland, with 11 wins and seven draws to their name from 19 meetings. The only loss on the Three Lions’ record was the famous meeting at Wembley in 1973. England needed a win to qualify for the 1974 World Cup, but could not find a way past Jan Tomaszewski and fell to a 2-0 loss.

Hungary

FIFA ranking : 40

Coach : Marco Rossi

Star man : Dominik Szoboszlai is a name on the tongues of many European football experts. He is only 20, but is making waves with Red Bull Salzburg. He’s being linked with a January transfer, so depending on where he ends up - England fans may know a lot more about him by the time qualifying gets underway.

Competitive record :  As you’d expect, England have a winning record against Hungary - but that was not always the case. In the 1950s and 60s, the Magyars beat the Three Lions four times on the spin - notably a 7-1 thrashing in 1954. In recent times, it has been all England - albeit they last met in 2010.

Albania

FIFA ranking : 66

Coach : Edoardo Reja

Star man : Albania topped their Nations League group to gain promotion, and Sokol Cikalleshi was an important figure with his goals. He plays his football for Turkish side Konyaspor and will be looking to show his talents on a big stage.

Competitive record : There have only been four meetings between the two nations, the most recent being in 2001, with all ending in victories for England.

Andorra

FIFA ranking : 151

Coach : Koldo Alvarez

Star man : Marcio Vieira passed a notable milestone in November, as he picked up his 100th cap for his country. At 36, his experience will count for a lot.

Competitive record : The two nations have met on four occasions, with all resulting in wins for England - by an aggregate score of 16-0.

San Marino

FIFA ranking : 210

Coach : Franco Varrella

Star man: Davide Simoncini is the key figure at the back for San Marino. Strange as it seems for the bottom side in FIFA’s world rankings, San Marino are in decent form as they’ve drawn two of their past three games - both 0-0. They won’t carry much of a threat going forward, but Varrella seems to have them well drilled at the back and their aim will be to frustrate.

Competitive record : Played six, won six is England’s record against San Marino. There have been some hidings as well, but San Marino did briefly threaten a shock when taking the lead in a World Cup qualifier in 1993 after eight seconds. Davide Gualtieri is the answer to the quiz question of the player who netted for San Marino. England rallied to win 7-1.