England's World Cup 2022 qualifying campaign kicks off on Thursday night against San Marino at Wembley. With only the winners of each group progressing automatically, England are looking to make Qatar in 2022 without any hiccoughs.
Of the 32 teams at the 2022 World Cup, 13 teams will qualify from UEFA. There are ten qualifying groups made up of 55 teams, split evenly with five or six team groups. With Belgium, France, Italy and Spain all reaching the 2021 Nations League finals, they are all in groups comprised of five teams.
Each winner of the 10 groups automatically qualifies for the Qatar World Cup, while the ten runners-up in each group enter into the play-offs. Also entering the play-offs are the two best Nations League group winners who don't finish in the top two teams of their groups.
These 12 teams are then drawn into three separate play-off paths - the winner of each path consequently qualifies for the tournament.
Part of Group I, England are in a six team group containing Poland, Hungary, Albania, Andorra and San Marino. Qualifying runs until November 2021, as the tournament kicks off a year later on 21 November 2022.
England's World Cup qualifying fixtures
Thursday 25 March - England v San Marino
Sunday 28 March - Albania v England
Wednesday 31 March - England v Poland
Thursday 2 September - Hungary v England
Sunday 5 September - England v Andorra
Wednesday 8 September - Poland v England
Saturday 9 October - Andorra v England
Tuesday 12 October - England v Hungary
Friday 12 November - England v Albania
Monday 15 November - San Marino v England
England's Group I opponents
With talisman Robert Lewandowski leading the line, Poland will surely fancy their chances at causing an upset in Group I. Backing Europe's best striker up includes Leeds United's Mateusz Klich, Southampton's Jan Bednarek, Juventus' Wojciech Szczesny and Marseille's Arkadiusz Milik, creating a strong team that will no doubt compete against England for automatic qualification.
After reaching the group stage in the 2018 World Cup in Russia, Poland topped their Euro 2020 qualifying group. Looking to do the same for the 2022 Qatar World Cup, Paulo Sousa and his men have a chance of reaching the tournament, either through the play-offs or automatically.
England and Poland last faced each other in the qualifying stages for the 2014 World Cup, where they drew 1-1 before England beat them 2-0 at Wembley.
Although Hungary haven't qualified for a World Cup since 1986, qualification for the Euros in recent years has proven more successful. After reaching the Round of 16 at the 2016 Euros, Hungary will also play in this summer's Euro 2020 tournament.
By no means will Hungary be an easy game either, with RB Leipzig's Peter Gulasci in goal and Willi Orban in defence. Maintaining an outside chance to finish second in the group, Hungary also won their 2021 Nations League group. Consequently, this gives them a better, and more likely, chance of reaching the play-offs.
England and Hungary haven't met in a competitive fixture since 1984, with their last friendly in 2010 providing a 2-1 England win.
Having never qualified for the World Cup, Albania's chances of reaching Qatar in 2022 are slim. Despite that, a Euro 2016 appearance is followed by promotion to League B in the Nations League, after topping their group. Like Hungary, this also provides them with an outside hope of reaching the play-offs of qualification, at least.
Napoli's full-back Elseid Hysaj is Albania's captain, who could invariably pick up points against teams in and around them in this campaign.
The last time England and Albania met was in qualification for the 2002 World Cup, with England winning 3-1 and 2-0.
With captain Marcio Vieira playing for Atletico Monzon in Spain's fourth tier, Andorra's hopes of upsetting the big boys in the group seems nigh on impossible. Having never qualified for a major tournament, Andorra's form of late also doesn't create much optimism. Finishing bottom of Nations League D group containing Faroe Islands, Malta and Latvia, the writing's on the wall for Andorra, unfortunately.
Andorra last faced England in the 2010 World Cup qualifiers, with England emerging with 6-0 and 2-0 wins.
Similarly to Andorra, San Marino shouldn't prove much of a contest for the majority of this group. Captain Davide Simoncini plays for AC Libertas in San Marino's amateur league, while the nation also finished bottom of Nations League D group containing Gibraltar and Liechtenstein.
England last played San Marino in 2016 Euro qualifiers, comfortably beating them 5-0 and 6-0.
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