'The games will excite the public,' says Roy Hodgson

Saturday 25 Jul 2015
England manager Roy Hodgson
England’s FIFA World Cup qualifying matches with Scotland will “excite the public” says Three Lions boss Roy Hodgson.

The manager was in St Petersburg on Saturday for the Russia 2018 qualification draw, and he saw his side drawn alongside their neighbours, Slovakia, Slovenia, Lithuania and Malta in Group F.

“There was always a chance we were going to get a local derby with Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland all a possibility,” he told BBC Sport following the draw.

FIFA World Cup 2018 Qualifying Group F

England, Scotland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Lithuania, Malta

“The Scotland fixture really does excite people. We have got recent experience of what the atmosphere will be like. 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.

He continued: "It is a very fierce rivalry and that’s good. It’s not fierce on the field as the games are played in absolutely the right spirit. Both the game at Wembley and the game at Celtic Park were played in a very competitive manner and were extremely intense but there was certainly nothing untoward, there was not a bad foul in either of the two games. So let’s make certain we keep talk of fierce and intense rivalry to the many fixtures back in the past that people refer to.”

Although he knows his side will have to be at their best to secure their spot at the showpiece in Russia, Hodgson was satisfied with the outcome of the draw.

“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 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.

“We need to be careful before we start describing ourselves as overwhelming favourites. We have to make certain we respect all our opponents and remain fully conscious that every time we don’t go on the field and do our job to 100 per cent we could lose.

"Slovenia are a good team as are Slovakia, Lithuania and Malta are experienced at this level so I think it will be a very competitive group. We are happy with the group it’s just a question now of trying to make certain that the players can handle it.”

The winner of each of the nine European groups qualify automatically alongside hosts Russia, with the best eight runners-up entering the play-offs in November 2017.

Dates for the fixtures are tbc.

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By Gary Stonehouse Staff Writer