England manager Roy Hodgson is relishing the prospect of facing old rivals Scotland in qualification for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
The draw in St Petersburg on Saturday saw the two nations placed in Group F alongside Slovakia, Slovenia, Lithuania and Malta.
It is the two
clashes with Scotland that Hodgson knows will be the most eagerly anticipated, with the neighbours set to meet in a competitive fixture for the first time since 1999.
“The Scotland fixture really does excite people. We have got recent experience (England won a friendly 3-1 at Celtic Park last November) of what the atmosphere will be like.” Hodgson told BBC Sport.
“The games will excite the public, get people in the mass media excited too, it is a good draw all round – I think Scotland will be happy with it and we are happy with it.”
Hodgson was also relieved to avoid European heavyweights France and Italy when the draw was made.
“I don’t want to suggest Italy are stronger than Scotland, but we have played a lot of games against Italy recently and I thought that group [Italy’s group] with the rest of the teams in it looked more tricky than the group we have found ourselves in.” he added.
“We know Slovenia and Malta are very keen on English football, while Slovakia from the second pot, although they have had a good spell, maybe do not have the allure of France and Italy, who may cause us more problems.”
Hodgson’s contract is due to expire after Euro 2016 in France next year – which England are well on course to qualify for – but the 67-year-old would be eager to stay on in the role.
The former Liverpool boss said: “It is a great honour to be England manager – I shall be delighted to retain that position all the time people want me too, but it won’t occupy my thoughts at this point in time,
“I’m pleased to come away with a good group and if England want me to lead the team I will be delighted to do so.
“If we can come through Euro 2016 without too many tears being shed I believe we have a good chance of qualifying for 2018.”
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