England hoping to avoid Portugal rematch

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src=' ' class='caption'> The one thing Fabio Capello will want from Friday's World Cup draw is to avoid Portugal.

Updated: December 02, 2009 14:34 IST
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Cape Town :

The one thing Fabio Capello will want from Friday's World Cup draw is to avoid Portugal, the side that ended England's interest in both Euro 2004 and the last World Cup.

Despite their failure to reach the finals of Euro 2008, England have recovered sufficiently under Capello to ensure that they will be one of eight seeds in Friday's draw for the group stages of next year's finals.

That means there is no danger of a first round meeting with the tournament favourites, Spain and Brazil, or the likes of Argentina, Germany or Italy.

But the structure of the draw means England could easily find themselves involved in a re-run of the 2006 quarter-final, which Portugal won on penalties after Wayne Rooney had been sent off.

Each of the top seeds will be grouped with another European nation drawn from a pool that will include whichever of Holland or France is not seeded, as well as the Portuguese.

A third pot will include five African and three South American teams while the final pot will be made up of countries from Asia, Oceania and North/Central America.

Capello regards the Ivory Coast as potential outsiders to win the first World Cup to be staged in Africa, so it is safe to assume he would prefer to avoid Didier Drogba and co. in the group stages.

The United States, runners-up at last year's Confederations Cup, and South Korea, unbeaten in 26 matches until their recent defeat by Serbia, look like the most dangerous opponents from the final pool.

Whatever the draw throws up however, England under Capello look resilient, confident and organised enough to progress to the business end of the competition.

What happens then is, as always, much tougher to predict. Expectations of what England could achieve have been driven upwards by an impressively efficient qualifying campaign in which they won nine of their ten matches and scored 34 goals.

But friendlies against the world's best have produced a mixed bag of results - a win over Germany in Berlin and a draw with Holland in Amsterdam have to be set against defeats by France, Spain and, most recently, Brazil.

After watching what was effectively his second XI being outpassed and outmuscled by Brazil in a 1-0 defeat in Qatar last month, Capello predicted that the five-times champions would, once again, be the side to beat in South Africa.

It is not a view shared by all his players. Wayne Rooney, for one, professed to have been more impressed by the pass-and-move masterclass delivered by Spain in a 2-0 friendly win in Seville in February.

All of which only serves to underline the scale of the task facing Capello's men as they seek to live up to their manager's assertion that they are good enough to regard anything short of an appearance in the final as failure.

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