England are poised to discover their opponents to the first winter World Cup in Qatar when the European qualifying draw takes place in Zurich, Switzerland.
Gareth Southgate’s side – were beaten by Croatia in the semi-finals after a memorable run in Russia in 2018. They also failed to reach a second successive Nations League finals – could potentially end up with a group containing Wales and one of the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland or Scotland.
There are 55 teams to be drawn in total from six pots that are based on Fifa’s latest world rankings.
The draw will begin with pot 1 and see each pot emptied completely before the next stage, with a team from each pot drawn into a group in alphabetical order from Group A to Group J.
There will be five groups of five and five containing six teams, with the five nations from pot 6 placed into the sixth slot in groups F to J.
Teams will play each other home and away, with the 10 group winners qualifying directly for Qatar 2022. The 10 group runners-up, meanwhile, will enter the World Cup play-offs alongside the two best group winners from the Nations League that did not finish inside the top two in their World Cup qualifying groups.
The four teams that have qualified for the latest Nations League Finals – Belgium, Italy, France and Spain – must be drawn into one of the groups containing five teams (groups A to E) due to a reduced number of matchdays available.
The fact that all four of those teams are from pot 1 means that there is no worries regarding more than one being drawn into the same group, which would not be permitted.
According to Fifa’s detailed draw procedures, Armenia and Azerbaijan cannot be drawn into the same group. That also applies for Gibraltar and Spain, Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Serbia, Kosovo and Russia, and Russia and Ukraine.
There are also restrictions aimed at minimising excessive travel, while a maximum of two countries from a list of Belarus, Estonia, Faroe Islands, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Russia and Ukraine can be drawn into the same group due to a risk of “severe winter weather conditions”.
Seedings for the draw – based on world rankings – were confirmed last month, with England placed in pot 1 alongside the likes of reigning world champions France and the planet’s no1-ranked team Belgium, whom they recently played twice in the Nations League.
Pot 1: Belgium, France, England, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Croatia, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands
Pot 2: Switzerland, Wales, Poland, Sweden, Austria, Ukraine, Serbia, Turkey, Slovakia and Romania
Pot 3: Russia, Hungary, Republic of Ireland, Czech Republic, Norway, Northern Ireland, Iceland, Scotland, Greece and Finland
Pot 4: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Albania, Bulgaria, Israel, Belarus, Georgia and Luxembourg
Pot 5: Armenia, Cyprus, Faroe Islands, Azerbaijan, Estonia, Kosovo, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Latvia and Andorra
Pot 6: Malta, Moldova, Liechtenstein, Gibraltar and San Marino
Europe will be represented by 10 nations at the World Cup in 2022.
The 10 group winners from UEFA qualifying will all make the tournament, nice and simple. Then the play-offs and Nations League start to come into play…
The 10 group runners-up will go through to the play-offs, along with the two best Nations League group winners who do not finish in the top two of their World Cup qualifying group.
The 12 play-off teams will be drawn into three separate play-off ‘paths’, each of which will comprise semi-finals and final, with the three winners heading to Qatar and we have our 13.