The World Cup draw has thrown England into a tangle of problems

FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 finals draw has taken place
FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 finals draw has taken place
Onuoha Ifeanyi

The draw for the 2022 World Cup has been made, and England's group is... complicated. Perhaps it's apt for a tournament that continues to be inappropriate.

It was easy to start wondering whether this instance of sportswashing had outlived its usefulness while watching the BBC's build-up to the Qatar 2022 draw.

The BBC was unafraid of the uncomfortable debates that were ahead. As Alan Shearer pointed out, 11 of the 22 people who voted to grant it to them have since been charged with corruption.

That was before the recent grilling of Gareth Southgate, whose assimilation into the role of the Actual Foreign Secretary proceeds apace.

It's already impossible to separate the 2022 World Cup from Qatar's alleged human rights transgressions and the dubious way in which the tournament was secured.

No one is going to boycott the tournament over this unless something drastic happens in the next seven months. But there's little doubt that the kinds of topics that make the tournament organizers so uncomfortable will come up again and again.

If the goal of all the glitz and glam was to divert attention away from these questions, it didn't appear to be working. Nasser al Khater, the chief executive of Qatar 2022, said that Southgate should "choose his words carefully".

It seemed like a thinly veiled threat to which the only fair answer is, "Or what?"

Few people will cry too much for a tournament organizer who is wealthier than Croesus and an event that many people believe should not be hosted there in the first place.

If Southgate's mild-mannered fumbling on things he clearly doesn't want to talk about has irritated him, Al Khater is sure to blow a gasket over what people are saying about his country.

But all was well in the air-conditioned chambers in Doha. Jermaine Jenas was "excited," according to his agent. He was undoubtedly watching from a swimming pool filled with champagne on a lilo embroidered with money.

Carli Lloyd was "overjoyed." Didier Deschamps flashed a rictus grin, as if he was on the verge of blinking his answers to the inane questions posed to him.

Then there was the draw, and we need to discuss Group B.

England are placed in a complicated World Cup group

FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 groupings are out
FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 groupings are out

England, the United States of America, Iran, and either Wales, Scotland, or Ukraine. What is the moniker for this?

The Legitimate Security Concerns Group? The Complex Historical Relationships Group? The Narrative Group?

The #FIFAWorldCup groups are set 🤩 We can't wait! 🏆#FinalDraw

Prepare for seven months of blazing hot takes from all angles, the majority of which will neatly back up the authors' already held political opinions.

Let's get this over with. It's a collection of two halves from an English standpoint. On the one hand, England are a much better team than many people believe.

They reached the last World Cup semi-finals, the inaugural Nations League semi-finals, and were a penalty shootout away from winning Euro 2020.

If we're only looking at it from a footballing standpoint, there shouldn't be much to worry about for England.

The United States qualified for the finals based on goal differential. Iran haven't played a European team since a 0-0 draw with Portugal in 2018 (despite losing only four of their 35 games before then).

We don't know if they'll play Wales, Scotland, or Ukraine in their last group match. But Wales hasn't beaten England since 1984, Scotland has only done so once since 1985, and England thrashed Ukraine 4-0 in Euro 2020 and 1-0 in Euro 2012.

But, as we all know, it's not that easy, especially when it comes to international football. The United States has never lost in the World Cup finals against England.

Iran has already played Scotland and the United States at the World Cup and has not lost to either. As Scotland demonstrated at Euro 2020, neither Wales nor they require much incentive to play England.

And, regardless of who they face, Ukraine will undoubtedly receive a significant amount of public support if they manage to get there.

In large measure, England's Group B resembles the Group of Dickens: it was the best of draws, and it was the worst of draws.

🗣️'The first call I got was from Mason Mount!' 📞Christian Pulisic's reaction to the World Cup draw after England were placed in the same group as USA.

Other groups

Fans of 'hotball' conspiracy theories will rejoice at the host nation's draw between Ecuador, the Netherlands, and Senegal, which makes qualification look doable for a mediocre host.

There may be plenty of spice when Ghana take on Uruguay in a rematch of the 2010 World Cup quarter-final, which Uruguay won after Suarez's last-minute penalty shenanigans.

The most anticipated match of the group stages will most likely be between Spain and Germany in Group E. For the second straight tournament, Brazil, Serbia, and Switzerland have all been placed together.

However, the overwhelming impression from the 2022 World Cup finals draw was one of unfinished business. Three of the qualifiers' identities are still unknown, as are the kick-off times and venues for the majority of the matches.

We can only disclose that they will all be held within a 45-minute drive of Doha. One of the many peculiarities surrounding this event is that it is being held in a city rather than a country.

Perhaps it's fair that this all feels so weird, given how this tournament got to be held here in the first place, and amidst the present global political environment.

Edited by Akshay Saraswat


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