The draw for the European section of 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifying is set to take place on Monday in Zurich.
The virtual event will be held at 5pm UK time and will see 55 teams split in to six groups of five and five groups of five.
The ten group winners will automatically qualify for a spot at the finals in 2022 with a further three places available to European teams. Those places will be contested for via play-offs made up by the 10 group runners-up and the two best 2020-21 Nations League group winners.
The qualifiers will be played between March and November 2021.
What could lie in store for Scotland?
55 National Associations will be allocated in to six pots – five containing 10 teams and one containing five teams – based on the FIFA world rankings as of November 26, 2020.
Scotland are set to be in Pot 3, meaning they will be guaranteed to be paired with two sides above and below them in the rankings, with a chance of being landed with a third side lower ranked should Steve Clarke and his side be drawn in a six team group.
Here are the pots in full, ordered from highest to lowest ranked sides in each pot:
- Pot 1: Belgium, France, England, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Croatia, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands
- Pot 2: Switzerland, Wales, Poland, Sweden, Austria, Ukraine, Serbia, Turkey, Slovakia, Romania
- Pot 3: Russia, Hungary, Republic of Ireland, Czech Republic, Norway, Northern Ireland, Iceland, Scotland, Greece, Finland
- Pot 4: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Albania, Bulgaria, Israel, Belarus, Georgia, Luxembourg
- Pot 5: Armenia, Cyprus, Faroe Islands, Azerbaijan, Estonia, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Lithuania, Latvia, Andorra
- Pot 6: Malta, Moldova, Liechtenstein, Gibraltar, San Marino
A closer look
Scotland fans will be familiar with a number of the nations included in Pot 1, having drawn Belgium and Germany in EURO 2020 and 2016 Qualifying respectively.
Steve Clarke’s side are set to lock horns with England and Croatia at EURO 2020 next summer after securing qualification last month, and there is no reminder required for what happened when England were drawn in 2018 World Cup Qualifying alongside Scotland.
2010 World Cup Qualifying saw the Netherlands paired with Scotland in Group 9. The Dutch stormed to top spot in the group and went on to reach the World Cup final in South Africa that summer, where they were defeated 1-0 by Spain.
Spain are a nation Scotland supporters will have fairly recent memories of too, having faced the then World and European Champions in EURO 2012 qualification, when a dramatic Gerard Pique own goal pulled Scotland level at Hampden before Fernando Llorente bagged a late winner in a 3-2 win.
The only recent experiences against Denmark have been in friendly fixtures, having last gone head-to-head in 2016. Matt Ritchie scored the only goal of the game that night at Hampden, with his eighth minute punisher for a Daniel Agger mistake enough to separate the two teams. The last time Scotland and Denmark locked horns competitively was in the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, when the Danes won by a goal to nil.
Current World Cup holders France are perhaps the most daunting prospect in Pot 1, but will also spark some of the finest memories in recent years for Scotland fans, after victory home and away in EURO 2008 qualifying - including that goal from James McFadden. Italy were also in Scotland’s group that year of course, when a stoppage time goal from Christian Panucci shattered Scottish hearts.
Portugal would be a somewhat refreshingly new draw for Scotland, having last faced the Portuguese competitively in 1994 World Cup Qualifying, where Italy were also drawn alongside the Scots in European Group 1.
Some difficult encounters could lie in store for Steve Clarke and his players in Pot 2, with recent opponents Serbia and Slovakia both potential draws for the Scots.
Ukraine and Switzerland are two sides full of talent and who have both enjoyed strong runs of form in the last year or two. Switzerland have gone toe-to-toe with Europe’s elite in the last few months, registering an impressive 3-3 draw with Germany and a 1-1 draw with Spain. They most recently faced Ukraine, where they were convincing 3-0 winners to confirm their status as a team to avoid in Pot 2.
Bayern Munich stars Robert Lewandowski and David Alaba may be the star names for Poland and Austria respectively, but the potential Pot 2 opponents would be a tough proposition for most nations in qualifying. Consecutive 2-2 draws tell the tale of Scotland’s previous meetings with Poland, whilst Austria have strung together an impressive unbeaten run of six matches to date.
Should Sweden be drawn alongside Scotland, it would be the first meeting between the two sides since 2010, when Zlatan Ibrahimovic was on the scoresheet in a 3-0 win for the Swedes.
A meeting with Romania would be the first since 2004, however a clash with Turkey would be a first-ever experience for many Scotland fans, having not played since a friendly in the 60s.
A close to home match-up with Wales would be an intriguing proposition for fans of both sides, but are certainly a nation to be wary of given their quality and recent form. Wales picked up 16 of a possible 18 points in their Nations League group and won both encounters with Scotland by two goals to one in 2014 World Cup qualifying.
Bosnia and Herzegovina have only just been relegated from League A of the Nations League and are the best ranked side from Pot 4.
Israel are, of course, very familiar opponents now for Scotland supporters, whilst Slovenia and Albania have gone toe-to-toe with Scotland as recently as 2017 and 2018 respectively in competitive matches.
Scotland have not faced Belarus competitively since 2006 World Cup qualifying, when a goalless draw and a 1-0 defeat were the two rather disappointing results between the two in that campaign.
The last time Scotland and North Macedonia faced was in 2014 World Cup Qualifying, when Shaun Maloney’s stunning late winner from a free-kick secured a 2-1 win away from home.
Georgia were last faced in EURO 2016 qualifying, whilst 14 years have passed since a 5-1 Kirin Cup win against Bulgaria.
Montenegro are unknown territory and one international friendly back in 2012 against Luxembourg is the only time the sides have met since European Qualifying in the 80s.
Pots 5 & 6
There is not a lot to separate Pots 5 and 6, in truth.
Armenia have just gained promotion from a tough League C group and are the second highest ranked side from Pot 5 behind Cyprus.
Gibraltar have just been promoted from League D in the Nations League, although Moldova could be the toughest pick from Pot 6.
Best and worst scenarios
Although many would argue Denmark would be an easier fixture than Netherlands, a best case scenario group for Scotland based purely on the current FIFA rankings would be: Netherlands, Romania, Scotland, Luxembourg, Andorra, San Marino.
Similarly, a worst case scenario would see Scotland drawn in the following group: Belgium, Switzerland, Scotland, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Armenia, Malta
When is the draw?
The draw takes place on Monday at 5pm UK time. The event will be hosted virtually from Zurich, with managers attending via video conference.
How can I watch it?
You can watch the draw live online via FIFA's official website - fifa.com – as well as on the networks of FIFA's broadcast partners.
It can also be streamed live online through UEFA's official website - uefa.com.