Monday 1 August 2011 by rickwestwell

England face ‘mountain to climb’ with tough World Cup qualifiers against Moldova, Exeter City and Narnia


England are facing a tough campaign to qualify for the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil after the weekend’s draw pitted them against potentially dangerous opponents in Moldova, Exeter City and C.S. Lewis’s mythical land of Narnia.

Moldova are an obvious threat, ranked as they are 845th in the world by FIFA, but many believe plucky Exeter and relative outsiders Narnia will provide an even tougher challenge in the so-called “Group of Beige”.

“We all want England to do well,” lied Scottish analyst Alan Hansen this morning, “But they’ve had a bad draw here, no doubt about it, and you’d have to fear for them.”

“I can’t see them beating Moldova, and Exeter can turn anyone over. Narnia are the unknowns for me – I was more into Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast series, with its gothic and surrealist influences.”

England World Cup Draw

Current manager Fabio Capello, who is set to move on after England’s disastrous performance in next summer’s European Championships, was philosophical about the task facing his side.

“There are no easy games at this level,” he explained, his perspicacity drawing gasps from assembled journalists. “Moldova are easily in the top 1000 national teams, and comfortably beat a good Antarctica side last year, let’s not forget.”

“Exeter, on the other hand, since their recent declaration of independence, are by a long chalk the best national side in the former Fourth Division, while Narnia are a closed book to most of us.”

“From what I’ve seen, they’re a fantastic side, and in horse-man Glenstorm they’ve got a great centaur forward. Did you see what I did there?”

England’s bad luck in the draw has somewhat eclipsed the similar poor fortune of Scotland, who face tricky qualifying games against Brazil, Argentina and the combined armies of the People’s Republic of China.

“Yes, it’s a bit of a toughie,” conceded Scotland coach Craig Levein, “but our sympathies have to be with England – they’re up against it all right.”

England’s is not the only tough group, however. In something of a coincidence, the theological lands of Heaven, Purgatory, Hades and Limbo have been grouped together in what commentators are already calling the ‘Group of Death’.

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