England draw a clear passage

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The Independent Online
England's quest to repeat their World Cup win of 1966 was given a boost last night when they were handed a comfortable first-round draw for next year's tournament in France.

Glenn Hoddle's team will open their campaign on 15 June in Marseilles against Tunisia, and will then play Romania and Colombia in their two other first-round games. Two of the four will progress to the second round and England should have no problems being one of them. Romania, the strongest of their opponents, have an ageing side, while Colombia and Tunisia should both prove beatable. Hoddle said: "It's not a bad draw. It could have been a lot worse."

For Scotland, it was a lot worse. They were drawn in the same group as Brazil, the World Cup holders and strong favourites to retain their title next year. Making up the numbers in their group are Norway, ranked 14 in the world to Scotland's 36, and Morocco, who are the type of underrated team that the Scots have most to fear.

Scotland start their World Cup on 10 June against Brazil in Paris, the opening game of the tournament. Craig Brown, their coach, said: "It couldn't come any tougher." He added that his side would be aiming for second in their group at best. England and Scotland are drawn in such a way that they could meet in the semi-finals. Hoddle said it would be a "dream come true for British football".

Yesterday's draw threw up some other intriguing ties. The United States are pitted against Iran in the opening stages, in a group with Germany and Yugoslavia. South Africa, making their first appearance in the finals, will meet the hosts, France, Saudi Arabia and Denmark in the opening phase.