MOSCOW - Former England winger Chris Waddle said England had been given a “fantastic draw” for the 2018 World Cup in Russia after they avoided football's superpowers on Friday.
The draw in Moscow saw England chosen to face Belgium, Panama and Tunisia in Group G.
It meant England, who have not won a major men's international trophy since lifting the 1966 World Cup on home soil, avoided global giants Argentina, Brazil and Germany after Argentina great Diego Maradona picked them out of Pot 2 at the Kremlin's State Palace.
England will face Tunisia in their opening game in Volgograd on June 18, a repeat of their first game in the 1998 World Cup in France, when goals from Alan Shearer and Paul Scholes secured a 2-0 win in Marseille. They will then travel to Nizhni Novgorod on June 24 to take on Panama, making their first appearance in a World Cup finals, with their concluding group fixture against a well-regarded Belgium in Kaliningrad on June 28.
With the top two teams in each pool going through to the second round, Belgium and England, for all they were dumped out of Euro 2016 by unfancied Iceland, will be huge favourites to make it out of Group G.
England have never lost to Belgium at a major tournament and have only lost one of their 21 matches against them.
Waddle, who missed a penalty in a 1990 World Cup semi-final shoot-out defeat by Germany, said Southgate's men had been given a “fantastic” draw. “You can't ask for a better draw,” Waddle also told the BBC. “Every team is dangerous. Belgium are class on their day but the rest are very beatable.”
Meanwhile former England captain Shearer, recalling England's decades of World Cup heartache, was more cautious, adding: “I don't want to say it's a good group or a bad group because I've heard it so many times over the years.
“We've got six days of rest after our first game, which if they are worried about travel, that shouldn't be an issue.”