England coach Gareth Southgate is cautious about the little time he will need to prepare his team for the 2022 World Cup, despite a friendly draw for the group stage on Friday.
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The Three Lions face Iran on the opening day of the tournament in Qatar on November 21, just eight days after the last Premier League matches before the international break for the World Cup begins.
England will also face the United States and potentially a British derby against Scotland or Wales should any of these sides disregard Ukraine in a play-off.
The play-off semi-final between Scotland and Ukraine has been postponed until June due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“The first two are obviously teams we haven’t played in a long time,” Southgate told the BBC.
“The third is totally unknown but obviously gives a possible British derby, we know what they are about and had plenty of them.
“For us, we are in day one so it is quite clear now what our program looks like for the end of the Premier League season and to get out here as soon as possible.”
England have never faced Iran before, while they have unfortunate memories of facing the United States at major tournaments.
The Americans beat England 1-0 in the 1950 World Cup and the two teams drew 1-1 in their opening match of the 2010 World Cup.
However, Southgate’s men are now considered one of the favorites for the tournament after reaching the semi-finals of the World Cup four years ago and then the final of the European Championships 2020.
“I think when you are seeded then you obviously get the benefit of missing the six or seven big teams,” Southgate replied, suggesting that his team has a comfortable draw.
“I think most of the first seeds would be happy with the first group they get. There are obviously some really high ranked teams in pot two, the United States is interesting.
“I know (US coach) Gregg Berhalter quite well, we’ve met a few times and had long conversations about things, actually just a couple of weeks ago, so we ended up smiling there.
“But they have some very good players and we know what they can be capable of as a nation. So that, in particular, is an exciting game.”
The build-up to the first ever World Cup in the Arab nation has been overshadowed by questions about Qatar’s human rights record and the conditions of migrant workers who built the arenas to host the tournament.
Southgate and his players have been outspoken in the fight against racism in recent years and have hinted that they could take a stand on the rights violations.
But Southgate refused to be drawn on what kind of gesture they can make.
“We will continue to talk to people here and build relationships here to be able to highlight any changes we would like to make,” he added.
“It’s important that we do it the right way, but today my focus is on the draw and just finding out what it really means.”
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