Gareth Southgate says he isn’t looking beyond the group stage of the Qatar 2022 World Cup after England were handed a kind group during the official draw in Doha.
Drawn into Group B, the Three Lions were joined by USA, Iran and the winner of the remaining European play-off – either Wales, Scotland or Ukraine.
Seeded into Pot 1, they avoided the big names lurking in the lower pots which included the likes of Netherlands, Germany, African champions Senegal and their World Cup 2018 conquerors Croatia.
England’s first game will be on the opening day of the tournament on 21 November against Iran and if they do make it out of Group B, then a round of 16 contest against Netherlands, Senegal, Ecuador or hosts Qatar awaits.
But boss Southgate wasn’t getting ahead of himself before the tournament has even begun.
“The first two in our group (USA and Iran) are teams we’ve not played for quite a while, the third (Wales, Scotland or Ukraine) is a total unknown, a potential British derby, we’ve had plenty of them ,” Southgate told the BBC immediately after the draw. “We’re in on day one, it’s clear what our program looks like after the Premier League.
“We’ve got to get out of the group. What we’ve done well is approaching the group, getting out, regardless of the opposition, and going from there.
“All of our thoughts are with Ukraine, when that tie is played, it’s irrelevant it’s for the rest of us to adapt and adjust.
“When you’re seeded, you get the advantage of missing out on the big six or seven teams. For most of the seeds they would be pleased with the group they get. There are some really highly-ranked teams in Pot 2, the USA are an interesting one. I’ve got to know (USA coach) Gregg Berhalter quite well – we were smiling at the end, they’ve got some good players and we know what they’re capable of as a nation.”
And United States coach Gregg Berhalter also highlighted the relationship that has developed between him and Southgate, meaning the draw provided an added level of excitement.
“We go way back,” Berhalter said of the England boss. “He’s a guy I look up to. He’s always been there for me, given me advice and I’ve looked to him as a mentor.
“I have a lot of respect for what he’s doing and looking forward to competing. I reached out to him when I got the job, asked him if he could tell me a bit about international football, since then we’ve stayed in touch.”
Southgate was also asked whether the time he has spent in Doha this week had clarified his position around the ongoing human rights concerns happening in Qatar and how the England team might approach the situation heading into the World Cup.
“We only last spoke a few days ago, we were delayed eight hours and I’ve not had a lot of time here,” Southgate added. “We’ll speak to people here, we need to build relationships here to highlight changes we want to make. But my focus is on the draw and what that means.”
World Cup 2022 group draw in full:
European Play-Off: Scotland/Ukraine/Wales
IC Play-Off 1: Australia/United Arab Emirates/Peru
IC Play-Off 2: Costa Rica/New Zealand