Old Trafford to stage four home World Cup qualifiers

England will play four of their five home World Cup qualifiers at Old Trafford, with the other match at the 52,000-capacity St James' Park.

England will play four of their five home World Cup qualifiers at Old Trafford, with the other match at the 52,000-capacity St James' Park.

Both the "home internationals" against Wales and Northern Ireland will be played in Manchester with the fixture against Azerbaijan in Newcastle. St James' Park is also the venue for the first friendly of the new season against Ukraine on 18 August. An FA spokesman said: "In the final year before we return to the magnificent new Wembley we are still committed to taking England fixtures around the country.

"However, as this is the World Cup qualifying campaign we wanted to make sure that the maximum number of fans had the opportunity to see the England side and that is why we have chosen the two biggest club grounds in the country."

England open their qualifying campaign against Austria in Vienna on 4 September.

The European Under-21 championship qualifier against Wales will be staged at Blackburn Rovers' ground, Ewood Park, on 8 October. The Under-21 coach Peter Taylor's first game is against Ukraine at Middlesbrough on 17 August.

ENGLAND'S WORLD CUP 2006 QUALIFYING FIXTURES: 2004: 4 Sept: Austria v England (Vienna); 8 Sept: Poland v England (Chorzow); 9 Oct: England v Wales (Old Trafford); 13 Oct: Azerbaijan v England ( tbc).

2005: 26 Mar: England v Northern Ireland (Old Trafford); 30 Mar: England v Azerbaijan (St James' Park); 3 Sept: Wales v England ( tbc); 7 Sept: Northern Ireland v England ( tbc); 8 Oct: England v Austria (Old Trafford); 12 Oct: England v Poland (Old Trafford).

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