Monday 07 December 2020, 22:05

European aspirants react to qualifying draw

  • Road to Qatar 2022 confirmed in Europe

  • High-profile coaches react to draw

  • Ten groups drawn two years ahead of tournament

In two years’ time, the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ will be in full swing. The Round of 16 will just have been played, with everyone looking forward to the quarter-finals. Before we get down to those last eight teams however, we need to establish which 32 will make it through to Qatar in the first place. In Europe, 13 spots are up for grabs via the qualifiers, which will be held between March 2021 and March 2022.

The draw for the UEFA preliminary competition took place in Zurich on Monday, with Daniele De Rossi and Rafael van der Vaart on hand to oversee proceedings.

The draw took place behind closed doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but a number of coaches and players took to social media, national association websites and virtual press conferences to share their thoughts. highlights some of the key reactions.

"France are the favourites but we’ll need to do the business out on the pitch. We’re the top seeds so obviously we're supposed to be the best team. Time will tell whether that is a help or a hindrance. The risk is thinking that you’re better than the rest of the group. We’ll be seen as the favourites, but even if we’re the strongest on paper, we’re going to have to go out and get the results. We’re going to need to be determined and focused if we’re going to get through." Didier Deschamps, France coach (Group D)

"Here’s the proof once again that I tend to be unlucky when it comes to draws, although it’s true that we could have ended up in an even tougher group. England made the semi-finals of the last World Cup and are currently fourth in the FIFA Ranking, while Poland are 19th and have got Lewandowski, who has been the top scorer in most of the World Cup qualifying rounds that I've been a part of. And I think that Albania are one of the strongest teams from Pot 4." Marco Rossi, Hungary coach (Group I)

"I think that it’ll be between us and Switzerland, who could easily have been one of the teams in the first pot and are one of the best teams in Pot 2. The advantage is that they’re a nearby country so it’ll be a short trip. On paper, Northern Ireland would appear to be an easier opponent than Switzerland but every match is a tough one. Even Bulgaria have never given us an easy ride. You can’t afford to underestimate anyone because all it takes is a draw to make life complicated for us." Roberto Mancini, Italy coach (Group C)

"We’ve got a five-team group, which is a positive. There are some really tough eastern European places to go and who are strong physically, like Bulgaria. We obviously know the qualities of Italy and Switzerland, who we played three years ago in the play-offs. We know that on our night we can beat the so-called bigger teams, and we have to be right for each and every one of those fixtures. It’s a tough group and one that we will be very much looking forward to come March." Ian Baraclough, Northern Ireland coach (Group C)

"It’s a good draw for Denmark for a number of reasons. The other teams have quality and talent, and Austria and Scotland in particular are really on the up and have a lot of potential. But we’ve got a solid team and we want to go out and beat them. It was also a favourable draw geographically because we won’t have to travel too far or have to deal with totally different time zones. I hope that we will be able to have fans at our home matches – it would be great for the supporters and for the players." Kasper Hjulmand, Denmark coach (Group F)

"It’s the kind of draw you always get when there are lots of teams involved. You always get some teams that you know better than others in your group. In any case, we’re excited about the idea of kicking off a new World Cup qualifying campaign." Luis Enrique, Spain coach (Group B)

"It’s not a group of death – there isn’t a group of death. The team from Pot 1 are the favourite in each group in my opinion. Obviously Turkey and Norway will be tough opponents. Turkey are a great footballing nation with a lot of good youngsters, while Norway have got a good team with Erling Haaland and Martin Odegaard. Montenegro and Latvia are well organised teams. We’ll have to make sure we work on our goal difference against Gibraltar." Frank de Boer, Netherlands coach (Group G)

"The match against Wales will be really fun to prepare for from an emotional point of view. On the pitch though, that will be two really tough games. Wales are a competitive team with quality players. Czech Republic are quite similar to Wales. They’re a well-balanced team and they never give you an inch. Belarus – who we’ll be facing for the first time – have also shown that they’ve got quality. Not forgetting Estonia, who we know well and who caused us a few problems when we faced them away in the qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup. They’re all countries that put up a fight and we’ll have to be prepared for them to come out looking to shake us up." Roberto Martinez, Belgium coach (Group E)

"They are good neighbours and it’s a country that lives for football – you can feel it every day, every minute, on the TV or any time you have any contact with the country. They have a young, interesting team which have managed to develop very well. We’ll be facing them as well at the EURO in Rome. They’re certainly the favourites but we’re good enough to hold our own with them." Vladimir Petkovic, Switzerland coach (Group C)

"A five-team group is good. It gives us more room to prepare with only two matches in the first two qualifying slots. It’s an interesting group with exciting fixtures. We know Spain very well, having drawn them for the EURO qualifiers and we’ll be playing them again at the EURO as well." Janne Andersson, Sweden coach (Group A)

"Portugal are the real favourites for this group. And even if we weren’t the favourites now, what would we do? We’d make sure we finished first. I think that Portugal’s aim has to be to qualify for the World Cup in first place and with the confidence of being able to go on and win the tournament. That would really be the cherry on the cake for this country." Fernando Santos, Portugal coach (Group A)

"Overall it’s an interesting group. We'll very much be the favourites and obviously we owe it to ourselves to win the group. Iceland have made a name for themselves at major tournaments in recent years, and there’s always a good atmosphere wherever they play. They’re also a very well-organised team, who play a pacey, refreshing brand of football that is focused on attack. Romania have a very young team from what I know, with players who really stood out at the most recent European U-21 championships, where they faced Germany in the semi-final. They’ve got some interesting players in their ranks." Joachim Low, Germany coach (Group J)

"There’s a great history with that fixture. There was a spell when we seemed to draw them every time. A couple of good historic fixtures with the Hungarians as well. The Tomaszewski game is obviously a legendary one in English football and I’ve heard people talk about that match a lot. It’s a big night whenever you face England and a chance for these countries to make some history. Whenever England play an opponent, it’s a chance for them not only to play well but to catch the eye of Premier League clubs. There’s always a lot of motivation when they play us." Gareth Southgate, England coach (Group I)