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Roy Hodgson expects good Wembley crowds

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Roy Hodgson has no fears about filling Wembley for England's World Cup qualifiers - so long as the national team play good football.

The Russia 2018 World Cup qualifying draw saw England paired with Scotland in Group F - but apart from the home nations' clashes the other opponents are less than glamorous: Slovakia, Slovenia, Lithuania and Malta.

Hodgson insists all the England games can be a big attraction to fans - as was the case when the Euro 2016 qualifier against Slovenia in November drew a crowd of more than 82,000.

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That was good news for the Football Association's coffers after the previous month the qualifier against San Marino saw a record low for a competitive game at the new Wembley of 55,990 spectators.

Hodgson, who is anticipating a "fanatic" atmosphere for the Scotland games, said: "No, there will be no issue. Wembley will be filled if the qualifying group is in any way tight and it will certainly be filled if the England team is playing good football.

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"If our young players can continue to progress and excite the public we won't have any problem filling Wembley.

"Furthermore, these days our friendly matches are played against such top-quality opposition so we can fill Wembley on those occasions too, so I don't have any reservations."

Hodgson also believes extra interest in the group will be stimulated by the Scotland matches, the first competitive meetings between the sides since a Euro 2000 play-off in 1999 where England won 2-1 on aggregate over two legs.

He added: "The Scotland fixture stands out as it's the oldest rivalry among football nations and if the friendlies are anything to judge by they will be very exciting games, and very tense. The atmosphere will be unbelievable.

"If anyone wants to see what a really fanatic football atmosphere is like I would invite them to Wembley when we play Scotland or to the match up there and they will see what passionate football support is all about."

England were top seeds in the draw and avoided both Italy and France among the second seeds - in fact they landed perhaps the easiest second seeds in the form of Slovakia, though Hodgson said they should not be underestimated.

"Slovakia are doing very well at the moment. They came out of Pot 2 and that will be an interesting fixture for us as we haven't played them for a while," he said.

"When it comes to Slovenia and Lithuania we have very recent knowledge of playing them which I think is advantageous although having said that a year's a long time in football and it could be a year and half before we play them and their teams could change enormously in that period of time."

England won both their recent friendlies against Scotland - in 2013 and last year - but Scottish Football Association president Alan McRae said the competitive matches will be "a different ball game" under manager Gordon Strachan.

McRae told Press Association Sport: "We have made steady process. Gordon has got the team playing - they are committed and organised - and he has got them into great shape so although individually our players don't compare to England I think on the day they will.

"I'm sure Gordon and his staff and players will all look forward to these two games. This will be a totally different ball game to the two friendlies.

"I think we could sell the stadium out twice over at least so from a financial point of view it's very good too."

Wales were drawn in Group D with the Republic of Ireland, plus Austria, Serbia, Moldova and Georgia.

Northern Ireland will have to face world champions Germany in Group C along with the Czech Republic, Norway, Azerbaijan and San Marino.

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Topics:
Scotland Football
World Cup
Football
England Football

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