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England Joy As They Avoid France In World Cup Draw
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ENGLAND narrowly avoided old foes France as they overcame their first World Cup hurdle. The Three Lions and Spain were the last two teams left in the draw with the French lying in wait.

But Brazil strike legend Ronaldo pulled England out of the hat to line up alongside Montenegro, Ukraine, Poland, Moldova and San Marino in Group H.

Based on average FIFA rank, England's group is the weakest in the European section of the draw.

World Cup winners Spain were paired with 1998 champions France in a tricky Group I, with one of those two now facing a potential play-off to reach the finals in Brazil in 2014. England defender Rio Ferdinand tweeted: "England WC qualifying group is similar to most qualifying campaigns, some tricky away games but have to be looking to qualify top."

The FA's director of football development Trevor Brooking admitted: "I think overall, when I saw some of the groups taking shape, we'll take that."

Current England boss Fabio Capello, who is stepping down after the Euro 2012 finals, was more cautious. He said: "It will be interesting, there won't be easy matches.

"England will have to be very careful, especially against Montenegro, Poland and Ukraine." Scotland and Wales will have to play each other in Group A with some strong-looking opponents - three from the Balkans - in Croatia, Serbia, Belgium and Macedonia.

Northern Ireland have some long-distance trips in Group F with Portugal, Russia, Israel, Azerbaijan and Luxembourg.

Republic of Ireland are in Group C with Germany, Sweden, Austria, the Faroe Islands and Kazakhstan. The winners of the nine groups qualify automatically and the eight best runners-up play off for the four places remaining.

Saturday's draw took place exactly 45 years after Bobby Moore lifted the World Cup for England at Wembley.

World Cup groups

GROUP A: Croatia, Serbia, Belgium, Scotland, Macedonia, Wales

GROUP B: Italy, Denmark, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Armenia, Malta

GROUP C: Germany, Sweden, Republic of Ireland, Austria, Faroe Islands, Kazakhstan

GROUP D: Holland, Turkey, Hungary, Romania, Estonia, Andorra

GROUP E: Norway, Slovenia, Switzerland, Albania, Cyprus, Iceland

GROUP F: Portugal, Russia, Israel, Northern Ireland, Azerbaijan, Luxembourg

GROUP G: Greece, Slovakia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Lithuania, Latvia, Liechtenstein

GROUP H: ENGLAND, Montenegro, Ukraine, Poland, Moldova, San Marino

GROUP I: Spain, France, Belarus, Georgia, Finland
Source: thesun.co.uk

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