Football World Cup: Hoddle seeks way to avoid tension

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The Independent Online
With the World Cup draw finally made, England and Scotland are finalising their preparations and as Glenn Moore discovers, Glenn Hoddle's men may be at home when the Scots open the tournament.

England, like most of their supporters, could begin their World Cup watching Scotland take on Brazil from the comfort of their own living room - albeit without the case of beer.

That is one scenario being considered by Glenn Hoddle as he seeks a way to avoid England's late start to next summer's tournament counting against them.

Under World Cup regulations England do not need to arrive in France until the evening of 10 June, five days before their opening fixture with Tunisia in Marseille and a few hours after the Scots open the competition in Paris.

"I'm happy with the draw but not the late start," said Hoddle in Marseille yesterday. "I would prefer to get under way earlier. There will be matches being played, the team will watch them on television but not be able to play themselves. That could lead to a build-up in tension. We could watch the opening ceremony then fly out."

England's pre-tournament preparations are likely to begin with a week abroad, in Portugal, Spain or France, perhaps with a game, before the players are given time off to be with their families. They would then meet up at Bisham Abbey, their domestic base, before flying out to their World Cup retreat at La Baule, near Nantes.

From this attractive Brittany resort they will travel to each match by air the day before the game and return to the Atlantic coast afterwards. Hoddle, who had already scouted Marseille and Lens, flew back for today's Liverpool v Manchester United game leaving FA staff to look for overnight accommodation in Toulouse. Scotland are undecided about their likely base, Craig Brown and his staff were assessing options, mainly around Lyon and St Etienne, yesterday.

Both teams will also be stepping up their scouting operation, especially in reference to Tunisia and Morocco, the north African teams draw by England and Scotland respectively.

Should England qualify second from their group they could face Argentina, Germany and Brazil in seven days. Or they might face unexpected opposition in the second round though it is hard to imagine either Japan or Jamaica qualifying at the expense of Argentina or Croatia.

"Whoever we play will not be easy," said Hoddle. "If it is a surprise team they will be there for a reason - because they are a good side."