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Last Updated: Friday, 5 December, 2003, 17:50 GMT
England face Wales and Northern Ireland
The 2006 World Cup logo
England will meet both Wales and Northern Ireland in the 2006 World Cup qualifiers.

The three home nations were drawn together in Group Six and will face each other home and away.

Austria, Poland and Azerbaijan are the other opponents in the six-team group in Friday's draw in Frankfurt.

England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson was delighted to have avoided a potential meeting with the Dutch, but denied they had been given an easy passage through to the finals.

"I am very glad that we avoided Holland," he said. "I think England have played against Poland many times in these circumstances and have done well.

Every nation wants to beat England, but Wales and Northern Ireland will want that even more
Terry Butcher
"I think it is a rather good draw - interesting. But it's absolutely not easy.

"Wales did very well in qualification for Euro 2004, they could have won the group. It will not be easy at all.

"I am sure Wales want to beat England at any cost but we want the same.

"Poland always have good football players and it's a good team. Northern Ireland and Wales are interesting, very interesting."

Wales boss Mark Hughes said: "It's a great draw for us. When the ball came out and we were paired with England I honestly thought 'this is fantastic'.

"It's been 20 years since England and Wales played. I remember it well because I scored the winning goal.

"It's going to be tough, of course. England are one of the top teams in the world at the moment, but the disappointment of the European campaign also proved to us that we can compete at the highest level."

Irish Football Association president Jim Boyce described the draw as a "dream come true".

He added: "I have been waiting a long time to get a British Championship resurrected. Don't forget we are the holders."

Scotland will face Italy, along with Slovenia - like Scotland beaten in the Euro 2004 play-offs - Norway, Belarus and Moldova in Group Five.

I hoped we'd avoid France because they are the top team in the world
Republic boss Brian Kerr
Scotland boss Berti Vogts said they had a decent chance of getting the runners-up spot.

"I think it is possible," he said. "We beat Holland at home in the Euro 2004 playoffs and perhaps we could do the same against Italy. It's not a bad draw for us."

The Republic of Ireland must take on France, Switzerland, Israel, Cyprus and the Faroe Islands in Group Four.

Ireland's manager Brian Kerr was not too disappointed with their draw, but admitted they face a stiff test against 1998 world champions France.

He said: "I hoped we'd avoid France because they are the top team in the world. But, other than that, we have to be happy.

"We can use Switzerland as motivation after they beat us in the Euro 2004 qualifiers while Israel, Cyprus and the Faroe Islands will present some problems but we should not fear them."

Only the eight European group winners and the best two runners-up will qualify for the finals with six other teams taking part in three play-offs.




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England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson
"It's not an easy group but it's not the most difficult either"



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