England World Cup date a major added incentive for Scotland says James McFadden

Scotland could set up the first-ever 'Battle of Britain' at a World Cup finals, if they can overcome Ukraine and Wales in the qualification play-offs.

By Angus Wright
Friday, 1st April 2022, 7:51 pm
Updated Friday, 1st April 2022, 8:46 pm

England were drawn to face Iran on the opening day of the 2022 tournament with USA and either Scotland, Wales or Ukraine completing the Group B section in Qatar. They have never faced Scotland or Wales at a World Cup finals, but do have recent Euros experience against both sides.

Steve Clarke’s side held their hosts at Wembley in the group stage of Euro 2020 last June, while Wales and England came together at Euro 2016. England won that match 2-1 but Wales progressed further in the tournament, reaching the semi-finals.

Former Scotland international James McFadden believes the prospect of facing Gareth Southgate’s team on the biggest stage will be a major motivation ahead of the play-offs.

The FIFA World Cup trophy. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

"We have got play-offs that we have to worry about and hopefully we can get through the first one, which sets up an unbelievable encounter against Wales," the former Motherwell and Everton forward told BBC Sport.

"And then for either side, it's a great incentive. It's a big enough incentive in itself to get to the World Cup, but knowing that you're going into a group again with England is great and I'm sure it will motivate the players going into those play-off games."

Upon discovering the outcome of the draw, England captain and striker Harry Kane tweeted: "Always exciting to see who we get in the group! Playing on the opening day will be incredible as well."

After Iran, England take on the US before finishing off against their currently unknown European opponents. Boss Southgate dismissed suggestions that uncertainty over one of their Group B opponents could affect preparations for the tournament.

France's forward Kylian Mbappe celebrates with the trophy at the end of the Russia 2018 World Cup final (Photo: KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images)

The continued invasion of Ukraine means FIFA is yet to establish a date for their play-off semi-final at Hampden, and the subsequent match for the winners against Wales.

Southgate told BBC Sport: "In this situation all our thoughts are with the people of Ukraine, so when this tie is played and how that is played out is irrelevant really.

"It's for the rest of us to adapt and adjust and provide them with the opportunity to play as and when they are able to."

England will face Iran on the opening day of the tournament and Southgate added: "We're in it on day one so it's quite clear now what our programme looks like from the end of the Premier League season and getting out here as quickly as possible.

"The first two teams (Iran and the USA) we have not played for quite a while and the third is unknown but throws up a possible British derby - and we know what they are all about."

Hosts Qatar will kick off the tournament against Ecuador on November 21, whilst Group E pitted two former world champions Spain and Germany against each other.

Belgium take on fellow 2018 World Cup semi-finalists Croatia in Group F, while reigning champions France take on Denmark, Tunisia and the winner of intercontinental play-off involving Australia, the United Arab Emirates and Peru.

If they were to progress, England, Scotland or Wales would face one of hosts Qatar, Holland, Ecuador or Senegal in the last 16.