Scots clash will capture imagination, says Hodgson

England's Manager Roy Hodgson. Picture: AFP/Getty Images
England's Manager Roy Hodgson. Picture: AFP/Getty Images
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ROY Hodgson welcomed the prospect of England facing Scotland in the World Cup qualifiers, describing it as a “fixture to capture the imagination”.

Hodgson said: “England v Scotland matches go back a long, long way in history and there has been many a fierce encounter along the way.’’

But the England manager, pictured, insisted the games would be played in the right spirit.

“It is a very fierce rivalry and that’s good. It’s not fierce on the field as the games are played in the right spirit,” said Hodgson.

“Both the game at Wembley and the game at Celtic Park were played in a very competitive manner and were extremely intense, but there was certainly nothing untoward. There was not a bad foul in either of the two games.

“So let’s make certain we keep talk of fierce and intense rivalry to the many fixtures back in the past that people refer to. The fixture is certainly going to capture the imagination.

Hodgson also rejected suggestions that England should be regarded as outright favourites to win the group.

He said: “We need to be careful before we start describing ourselves as overwhelming favourites. We have to make certain we respect all our opponents and remain fully conscious that every time we don’t go on the field and do our job to 100 per cent we could lose.”

Hodgson’s current contract expires after the Euro 2016 finals next July, but the 67-year-old, speaking in St Petersburg after the World Cup draw, said: “It’s not something I want to give up lightly and if the FA want me to stay on I would be delighted to do so.”

Wales were drawn in Group D with the Republic of Ireland, plus Austria, Serbia, Moldova and Georgia.

Northern Ireland will have to face world champions Germany in Group C along with Czech Republic, Norway, Azerbaijan and San Marino.

England and Wales were both among the nine countries who were top seeds for the draw, thanks to their July FIFA rankings of ninth and tenth respectively.

England have not failed to qualify for a World Cup since 1994, though they did miss out on the European Championships in 2008.

By contrast Wales have only attended a World Cup finals once in their history, in 1958, while Scotland’s last appearance came in 1998, Northern Ireland’s in 1982 and the Republic of Ireland in 2002.

Wales manager Chris Coleman said he would relish the chance to cross swords with Martin O’Neill.

Coleman said: “I know Martin very well and there will be a couple of juicy games against the Republic of Ireland.

“There were a lot of teams in there you don’t really want, can do without that, and say some groups may have been better for us and some worse.

“What we have learned in the last campaign is that we concentrate on ourselves rather than worrying about the opposition and I say that with all due respect. We have had a good run, and this will be a good group with great games.”

Northern Ireland will have to face World Cup winners Germany and Irish FA chief executive Patrick Nelson said: “When Germany came out we just thought what a great competition this is going to be. Any group with Germany in it is going to be difficult but it’s going to be exciting.”