England have been drawn with Belgium, Panama and Tunisia in Group G at next year’s Fifa World Cup in Russia.
Gareth Southgate’s men will begin their tournament against Tunisia on Monday, 18 June (19:00 BST) in Volgograd.
They will then face World Cup debutants Panama in Nizhny Novgorod on 24 June (13:00 BST) before playing top seeds Belgium four days later in Kaliningrad (19:00 BST).
Russia play Saudi Arabia in the opening game in Moscow on 14 June (16:00 BST).
Holders Germany are in Group F with Mexico, Sweden and South Korea while five-times winners Brazil are in Group E alongside Switzerland, Costa Rica and Serbia.
The 2018 tournament takes place in 12 stadiums across Russia between 14 June and 15 July.
World Cup groups in full
- Group A: Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Uruguay
- Group B: Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Iran
- Group C: France, Australia, Peru, Denmark
- Group D: Argentina, Iceland, Croatia, Nigeria
- Group E: Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Serbia
- Group F: Germany, Sweden, Mexico, South Korea
- Group G: Belgium, Panama, Tunisia, England
- Group H: Poland, Senegal, Colombia, Japan
Who got the hardest draw?
There is not one group that obviously stands above the rest as being the toughest.
In terms of rankings, Group B looks the most difficult.
European champions Portugal, ranked third in the world, have been drawn with neighbours and 2010 World Cup winners Spain. Iran, who are unbeaten in 10 Asian qualifying matches and Morocco, who topped a group featuring Ivory Coast, make up the rest of the group.
Group F also looks tricky for the reigning champions. Germany, who beat Argentina 1-0 in the 2014 World Cup final in Brazil, will likely face three robust examinations against Mexico, Sweden and South Korea as they try to retain the title for the first time since Brazil did so in 1962.
Resurgent Brazil – thrashed 7-1 in the 2014 semi-final in Belo Horizonte – have also been drawn in what looks like a quietly exacting group.
Alongside Neymar’s Brazil in Group E are Switzerland, Costa Rica and Serbia while Lionel Messi and his Argentina team-mates play debutants Iceland – who reached the quarter-finals of Euro 2016 – Croatia and Nigeria.
A good group for England?
England have not lost to Belgium in their past 11 meetings – and their only defeat against them in 23 games was in 1936.
The Three Lions have met Tunisia twice before, drawing a friendly in 1990 and beating the North Africans in their opening game of the 1998 World Cup in France, while England have never met Central America country Panama.
|England’s record against their group-stage opponents|
England’s possible route to the final
In summary, reaching the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on 15 July is not going to be easy.
If England top their group, their path to the final could see them come up against Colombia, Brazil, France and then Germany.
If Southgate’s side finish second then it could be Poland, Germany, Spain and then Brazil in the final.
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A satisfactory outcome for England? – analysis
BBC Sport’s chief football writer Phil McNulty: England can have no excuses if there is a repeat of the embarrassment of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil when they failed to progress from the group phase.
Manager Gareth Southgate will understandably publicly exercise caution about their group with Belgium, Tunisia and Panama – but privately he and the Football Association will surely regard this as a highly satisfactory outcome.
There was certainly no need for FA chairman Greg Clarke to repeat the cut-throat gesture predecessor Greg Dyke delivered when England were drawn against Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica ahead of their last World Cup in Brazil.
Barring surprises, the final group game against Belgium in Kaliningrad is likely to decide the group winners – and this will clearly be the toughest assignment for Southgate and his team.
Belgium coach Roberto Martinez has an intimate knowledge of the Premier League after his time at Wigan Athletic and Everton while their outstanding generation of players has a heavy top-flight influence, including two performers of undoubted world class in Manchester City’s Kevin de Bruyne and Chelsea’s Eden Hazard.
Tunisia, England’s opponents in their opening game in Volgograd on Monday 18 June, are ranked 27th in the Fifa rankings, and will be heavy underdogs while a meeting with Panama, ranked 56th and at their first World Cup, should hold no fear.
England’s immediate fate appears to hang on that meeting with Belgium but Southgate will surely be confident of qualifying from Group G.