England are 4/9 favourites to win their World Cup qualifying group
Three Lions avoid France and Republic of Ireland in undaunting Group H
Whoever it is that ends up replacing Fabio Capello after England’s participation in the Euro 2012 process is complete – most assume Harry Redknapp – will be fairly confident of guiding them safely to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
The Three Lions were drawn alongside current adversaries Montenegro, Ukraine, Poland, Moldova and San Marino in Group H, meaning that they avoided some of the trickiest potential opponents like France and Republic of Ireland.
The sense that things could have been a lot more difficult is best illustrated by the fact that Montenegro were among the fifth set of seeds for Euro 2012 qualifying, yet following their strong start to that made it into pot two this time.
Ukraine and Poland will both be out of practise at handling the rigours of a ten-match campaign having had byes for Euro 2012, which they are co-hosting, yet are expected to provide the main challenge at 9/2 and 11/2 respectively.
England are clear 4/9 favourites to finish first, with Montenegro’s recent success clearly judged flash in the pan given their odds of 10/1. Moldova and San Marino are considered no hopers at 200/1 and 2500/1.
The draw wasn’t quite as kind to Republic of Ireland, who were punished for the harsh call to place them in the third set of seeds by being paired with Germany and Sweden in Group C, which they are 7/1 long shots to top.
Scotland and Wales will face each other in a tough-to-judge Group A in which they meet one of the weaker top seeds in Croatia, an inconsistent Serbia side, underachievers Belgium and tricky Macedonia. Neither are fancied to go through at 14/1 and 66/1.
Northern Ireland are also outsiders at 40/1 in Group F, where they will do battle with Portugal, Russia, Israel, Azerbaijan and Luxembourg.