The draw for the World Cup 2018 has been made and England have been drawn in Group G with Belgium, Tunisia and newcomers Panama.
The attention will now turn to who Gareth Southgate will select in his England squad for next summer’s tournament.
World Cup 2018 draw: England to face Belgium, Tunisia & Panama
England will open their campaign against Tunisia on 18 June at 7pm (UK time).
The two sides met in the 1998 World Cup group stage in France, with goals from Alan Shearer and Paul Scholes giving England a 2-0 win.
They then face Panama on June 24 at 1pm, and then face their toughest opponents of the group, Belgium on June 28.
Southgate acknowledged that the highly talented Belgium side will be a stern test and said that his team must prepare well.
He also eased expectations ahead of the tournament and said that there will be ‘ups and downs along the way’.
Speaking to the BBC he said: ‘Belgium are an outstanding team. They’re ranked where they are (fifth in FIFA rankings) because of the quality of players they’ve got. That is top quality opposition and a great game to prepare for.
‘It’s fantastically exciting to be here for the draw. We’ve got to focus on the first game and go from there. The objective is to qualify from the group. There’ll be ups and downs along the way I’m sure.’
He also said that the team should not take the Tunisia or Panama lightly: ‘We haven’t done as much research on the African teams as yet. Now’s the opportunity.
‘We’ve been good at writing teams off and then getting beaten by them, haven’t we? We’ve got to make sure we prepare for those games.’
No official date has been confirmed but England’s previous World Cup squads have traditionally been announced after the season ends.
In 2014, Roy Hodgson announced his 23-man squad on 12 May, with Ross Barkley being the surprise inclusion.
Fabio Capello announced an initial 30-man squad in on 11 May, 2010, however he revealed his final 23-man squad on June 1, 2010, with Theo Walcott a surprise omission.
Speaking of Walcott, Sven-Goran Eriksson caused a shock by including the then 17-year-old in his World Cup squad on 8 May, 2006.
Eriksson named his World Cup 2002 squad on 9 May, 2002.
The squads previous four squads have been announced in the second week of May, so we expect Gareth Southgate to announce his squad during the days after the end of the Premier League season, which is Sunday 13 May, 2018.
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