England's World Cup qualifying group includes Northern Ireland, Wales, Poland, Austria and Azerbaijan
Sven-Goran Eriksson's England were placed in a half-British group for qualifying for the 2006 World Cup, which took place in Frankfurt on Friday evening and will involve the Three Lions playing home-and-away fixtures with five other nations in total, beginning two months after the conclusion of Euro 2004.
From Pot B, England drew the familiar name of Poland, making it the fourth time in the past five World Cup qualifying campaigns that the two countries' paths have crossed. However, rather ominously for Eriksson and his men is the fact that the last time the tournament was actually held in Germany, in 1974, the Poles famously prevented Alf Ramsay's side from qualifying following a famous 1-0 win at Wembley, the World-Cup winning coach's final match in charge of his country.
Poland, who made it to the Far East last year, have met England on 15 occasions, winning just once, as mentioned above and losing eight times and will need Liverpool goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek to be at his very best if they are to break English hearts a second time.
From Pot C came the Austrians, whose last appearance at the finals of a major tournament came at France 98, but have since then struggled badly, having recently being eclipsed by both the Czech Republic and the Netherlands in qualifying for next summer's European Championships and slipping to 65th position in the FIFA world rankings.
The two nations have crossed paths 15 times, with England emerging victorious in eight of those meetings, while Austria have won on four occasions.
Mark Hughes' Wales were drawn from Pot D, which contained the fourth-seeded teams and the former Manchester United striker is delighted to be meeting England.
"It's a great draw for us," said Hughes. "When the ball came out and we were paired with England I honestly thought 'this is fantastic'. It's going to be tough of course. England are one of the top teams in the world at the moment, but the disappointment of the European campaign also proved to us that we can compete at the highest level."
In actual fact, when the two teams last faced each other 18 years ago, Hughes scored the only goal of the game in a friendly in Wrexham and the Red Dragons are not to be underestimated, having only just narrowly failed to beat Italy to a place at Euro 2004 and even defeating the Azzurri in Cardiff.
In total, the two nations have played each other 97 times, with England winning 62 of those encounters, while Wales have won 14. However, the Welsh have not appeared at the finals of a major tournament since the 1958 World Cup and will be without the suspended Ryan Giggs for the first two qualifying matches.
Meanwhile, ex-Wales international captain Kevin Ratcliffe believes that "obviously England are going to be the favourites and the team that everyone will want to see and beat, but I fancy us against England at home," before adding: "In fact, I fancy us against anyone at home."
The second home nation to be drawn in Group Six was Northern Ireland, who are currently without a manager following the recent departure of Sammy McIlroy after he failed to guide the Irish to Portugal for the Euro finals.
Northern Ireland took part at both the 1982 and 1986 World Cups, the latter the last time that they qualified for the finals of a major tournament and in total they have played England 96 times, winning just six of those games and losing 74 of them.
"It's a great draw for the new manager, I'm sure he will be delighted with it," commented the man who coached the Irish for three years. "It's a tough group, but a fantastic group and there'll be a lot of television coverage.
"It will not be easy for England going to Belfast as there'll be a big crowd there and a fantastic atmosphere and I'm sure the boys will be up for it. The Irish people will also be happy as they can see all the England stars and there is not a lot of bad travelling involved."
But the ex-United player did concede that "England have to be odds on favourites to win the group," before expressing a hope that "Ireland can start winning some games soon."
And England's final group opponents, who came from the pot of nations that were seeded sixth, were Azerbaijan, with the two countries never having met before in international football, although Wales did play them twice this year in qualifying for Euro 2004, winning both encounters home and away.
The bookmakers have England as the favourites to win the group, followed by Poland at 6/1, Wales at 7/1, Austria at 10/1 and both Ireland and Azerbaijan at 500/1.