Hodgson relishes meetings with ‘Auld Enemy’

Italian soccer legend Fabio Cannavaro looks to the World Cup trophy during the preliminary draw for the 2018 soccer World Cup in St. Petersburg. Picture: PA.
Italian soccer legend Fabio Cannavaro looks to the World Cup trophy during the preliminary draw for the 2018 soccer World Cup in St. Petersburg. Picture: PA.
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ENGLAND’S World Cup qualifier against Scotland at Wembley will be held on a Friday night.

The match will take place on Friday, November 11, 2016, with a 7.45pm kick-off.

The return match will take place at Hampden Park on Saturday June 10, 2017, with a kick-off time of 5pm.

England will begin their World Cup qualifying campaign away against Slovakia, with a home match against Malta and another trip to Slovenia before they meet Scotland.

Scotland’s first qualifier will be away against Malta.

England will conclude their campaign away to Lithuania on October 8, 2017, with Scotland rounding off their fixtures in Slovenia the same evening.

Wales and the Republic of Ireland will meet in Dublin on March 24, 2017 and the return match will be in the final round of games on October 9 that year.

Northern Ireland travel to face world champions Germany on October 11, 2016 and will host them in Belfast on October 5, 2017.

England manager Roy Hodgson has no fears about filling Wembley for England’s World Cup qualifiers – so long as the national team play good football.

Apart from the obvious attraction of the game against Scotland in November, England’s other Group F opponents are less than glamorous – Slovakia, Slovenia, Lithuania and Malta.

Hodgson insists all the England games can be a big draw to fans – as was the case when the Euro 2016 qualifier against Slovenia in November drew a crowd of more than 82,000.

That was good news for the Football Association’s coffers after the qualifier against San Marino the previous month saw a record low for a competitive game at the new Wembley of 55,990 spectators.

Hodgson, who is anticipating an “unbelievable” atmosphere for the Scotland games, said: “No, there will be no issue. Wembley will be filled if the qualifying group is in any way tight and it will certainly be filled if the England team is playing good football.

“If our young players can continue to progress and excite the public, we won’t have any problem filling Wembley.

“Furthermore, these days our friendly matches are played against such top-quality opposition so we can fill Wembley on those occasions, too, so I don’t have any reservations.”

Hodgson believes extra interest in the group will be stimulated by the Scotland matches, the first competitive meetings between the sides since a Euro 2000 play-off in 1999 where England won 2-1 on aggregate over two legs.

He added: “The Scotland fixture stands out as it’s the oldest rivalry among football nations and if the friendlies are anything to judge by they will be very exciting games, and very tense and intense. The atmosphere will be unbelievable.

“If anyone wants to see what a really fanatic football atmosphere is like I would invite them to Wembley when we play Scotland or to the match up there and they will see what passionate football support is all about.”

England were top seeds in the draw and avoided Italy and France among the second seeds – in fact, they landed perhaps the easiest second seeds in the form of Slovakia, though Hodgson said they should not be under-estimated.

“Slovakia are doing very well at the moment, came out of Pot Two and that will be an interesting fixture for us as we haven’t played them for a while,” he said.

“When it comes to Slovenia and Lithuania we have very recent knowledge of playing them which I think is advantageous although having said that a year’s a long time in football and it could be a year-and-a-half before we play them and their teams could change enormously.”