Southgate refuses to look beyond group stage as England discover World Cup fate
England manager Gareth Southgate refused to look beyond the group stage after his side discovered their first three opponents at this year’s World Cup in Qatar.
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The Three Lions will kick off their tournament with a first ever meeting with Iran on Monday 21st November before taking on the USA four days later.
England’s final group stage opponent is yet to be decided with the winner of Scotland’s delayed play-off semi-final with Ukraine taking on Wales for a place in Qatar.
Many have suggested Southgate have been handed a favourable draw as they look to make some serious progress at the tournament - but the England boss insisted his focus is solely on getting out of the group.
He told The BBC: “The first two are teams we have not played for quite a while and the third is a total unknown - but obviously throws up a possible British derby.
“We know what they are about, we’ve had plenty of them.
“For us, we are in on day one, so it’s quite clear was our programme looks like with the end of the Premier League season and getting out here as quickly as possible.
“We have got to get out of the group and what we have done well is we have approached these tournaments by looking at the group first and foremost.
“The objective is to get out of the group, regardless of the opposition and then you build from there.”
England’s wait to discover their final group stage opponents has been delayed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The crisis forced the delay of the play-off semi-final against Scotland but that fixture has now been rescheduled to take place in June.
The winners of that tie will travel to Wales in the play-off final, with the victors taking the fourth and final spot in England’s group.
Southgate described focusing on the football side of the situation as “irrelevant” and stressed that all thoughts should be with the people of Ukraine.
“I think, in this situation, all of our thoughts are with Ukraine and the people of Ukraine.
“When that tie is played and how that is played out is irrelevant really.
“It’s for the rest of us to adapt and adjust and provide them with the opportunity to play as and when they are able to.”