English and Scots will stay apart

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England, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland have avoided the prospect of meeting each other in the qualifying tournament for the 1998 World Cup in France.

The draw will be made in Paris tomorrow, and the three British Isles sides find themselves grouped together in the second seeding pool, which means they cannot be drawn together. However, Northern Ireland are in the third group and Wales the fourth.

The expansion of the final stages from 24 to 32 teams - with a total of 64 matches spread over 10 venues - means Europe has 15 places, compared to 13 in the United States. However, the break-up of the former Soviet Union, and the fragmentation of the former Yugoslavia into five separate footballing nations hugely increases the number of qualification hopefuls.

Terry Venables, the England manager, reacted to the announcement of the group seedings by admitting his men faced a potentially daunting task to improve on the efforts of his predecessor Graham Taylor's side and make the 1998 finals.

"It looks tough, but I never imagined it would be anything else," said Venables, whose team is preparing for tomorrow's friendly against Portugal, also seeded in the second pool.

1998 WORLD CUP European Qualifying Section: Pool A: Germany, Spain, Italy, Russia, Norway, Denmark, Holland, Sweden, Romania.

Pool B: Bulgaria, Switzerland, Portugal, Czech Republic, England, Republic of Ireland, Scotland, Belgium, Greece.

Pool C: Turkey, Poland, Slovakia, Austria, Croatia, Israel, Finland, Lithuania, Northern Ireland.

Pool D: Iceland, Latvia, Wales, Hungary, Cyprus, Ukraine, Slovenia, Georgia, Yugoslavia.

Pool E: Albania, Belarus, Malta, Macedonia, Luxembourg, Moldova, Armenia, Faroe Islands, Estonia.

Pool F: Azerbaijan, San Marino, Liechtenstein, Bosnia.