England will play a Northern Ireland team aiming to reach a second major tournament finals after they were drawn together in a qualifying group for the 2023 World Cup in New Zealand and Australia.
The two sides met in a February friendly at St George’s Park for England’s first game in almost a year and a hat-trick from Ellen White helped the home team to a 6-0 win. Northern Ireland recently qualified for next summer’s Euros with a 4-1 aggregate win over Ukraine in the qualifying play-offs.
Sarina Wiegman is due to take charge of the Lionesses for the Euros and 2023 World Cup after she has managed the Netherlands at the Olympics this summer.
Also in Group D are Austria,ranked 21st in the world, North Macedonia, who are ranked 131st and played their first game in 2005, 97th-placed Latvia and Luxembourg, who sit 122nd in the Fifa rankings — none have qualified for the World Cup.
England have played Austria six times, four times in World Cup qualifiers, in 2005 and 2010, and have scored 22 goals and conceded one.
Wales have been drawn in a group with the 2019 World Cup quarter-finalists France, Slovenia, Greece, Kazakhstan and Estonia. Scotland will meet Spain, who have experienced rapid growth and were narrowly knocked out by the eventual champions the USA in the last-16 two years ago, Ukraine, Hungary and the Faroe Islands.
The nine seemed teams – Sweden, Spain, the Netherlands, England, Denmark, Norway, Italy, Germany and France – will be firm favourites to top their respective groups. Group G, which contains Italy (ranked 15th) and Switzerland (20th), perhaps offers the most likely, but still slim, chance of an upset.
The group winners qualify directly and the runners-up go into play-offs in October 2022. Two teams will go directly from the play-offs to the finals and the third-best play-off team will go into inter-confederation play-offs, based on group and play-off results.