England will face Northern Ireland in the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup qualifiers, while Scotland have been drawn in a group with Spain.
The Lionesses will face their Northern Irish counterparts again, after having met most recently in a friendly in February when Hege Riise’s side won 6-0.
Austria, North Macedonia, Latvia and debutants Luxembourg also make up Group D.
Alongside Spain, interim boss Stuart McLaren’s Scotland side will also face Ukraine, Hungary and the Faroe Islands in Group B.
Elsewhere, Wales will face France, Slovenia, Greece, Kazakhstan and Estonia in Group I, while Republic of Ireland have been drawn in Group A with Sweden, Finland, Slovakia and Georgia.
The World Cup qualifiers will represent the first fixtures where current Netherlands boss Sarina Wiegman will take charge of England after it was announced in August that she would take up the post from ex-boss Phil Neville.
Games will be played in a home-and-away round-robin format between September 2021 and September 2022, with a break in the summer of 2022 for the Women’s European Championship.
Only the group winners qualify directly and join hosts Australia and New Zealand in the finals in the summer of 2023, while the runners-up will advance to a play-off round.
Analysis: Good draw for England, Scotland feel confident
Sky Sports News reporter Jessica Creighton…
Wow! Northern Ireland are drawn against Home Nation rivals England! What a tie that will be.
Northern Ireland have made incredible progress over the past decade, recently qualifying for their first ever major tournament – the European Championships as the lowest ranked nation. England are ranked 42 places above Northern Ireland in the world rankings at sixth.
England will be very happy with their group and will be expected to win it convincingly. Group D includes the lowest ranked side in qualifying North Macedonia, ranked 131st in the world. To put it in perspective, while all of the England Women players are full-time paid professionals, some even household names, North Macedonia are still working on their first ever women’s football strategy.
Despite only making their Women’s World Cup debut last time around in 2019, Scotland will feel confident in Group B. Spain presents their strongest opponent but the last time these two teams met at a major tournament – the 2017 European Championships group stages – Scotland won 1-0.
Wales face a tough task with France in their group, who reached the quarter-final stages of the past two major tournaments. But Wales have improved significantly in recent years with many of the team now playing for clubs in the Women’s Super League in England, arguably one of the most competitive leagues in the world.
They also have a new manager in Gemma Grainger who wants to make them more attack-minded and expressive on the ball, to achieve the aim of reaching their first ever major tournament.
2023 Women’s World Cup qualifiers – draw in full
GROUP A: Sweden, Finland, REPUBLIC OF IRELAND, Slovakia, Georgia
GROUP B: Spain, SCOTLAND, Ukraine, Hungary, Faroe Islands
GROUP C: Netherlands, Iceland, Czech Republic, Belarus, Cyprus
GROUP D: ENGLAND, Austria, NORTHERN IRELAND, North Macedonia, Latvia, Luxembourg
GROUP E: Denmark, Russia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Azerbaijan, Malta, Montenegro
GROUP F: Norway, Belgium, Poland, Albania, Kosovo, Armenia
GROUP G: Italy, Switzerland, Romania, Croatia, Moldova, Lithuania
GROUP H: Germany, Portugal, Serbia, Israel, Turkey, Bulgaria
GROUP I: France, WALES, Slovenia, Greece, Kazakhstan, Estonia
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