2022 World Cup Qualifying preview: England, Scotland and Northern Ireland begin road to Qatar

Watch Thursday's 2022 World Cup Qualifiers live on Sky Sports from 5pm; also follow via our dedicated live blog, plus watch in-game clips and free match highlights on Sky Sports' digital platforms

Harry Kane (AP)

The road to Qatar for European countries continues on Thursday with more World Cup qualifiers including games for England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Spain, Germany, and Italy.

The remaining five FIFA World Cup European Qualifying groups play their first games of the qualifying tournament on Thursday evening, after the European competition got underway on Wednesday, with World Cup holders France held by Ukraine and runners-up Croatia beaten in Slovenia.

This time, 2018 last-16 side Switzerland kick off the day's games in Bulgaria, at the same time as Israel host Denmark.

Then on Thursday evening, 2010 winners Spain host Greece, 2006 champions Italy are visited by Northern Ireland, England host San Marino, and Iceland visit 2014 holders Germany.

Scotland, fresh from qualifying for Euro 2020, host Austria in Group F.

World Cup 2022 Euro Qualifiers on Sky Sports

Watch Thursday's 2022 World Cup Qualifiers live on Sky Sports from 5pm; also follow via our dedicated live blog, plus watch in-game clips and free match highlights on Sky Sports' digital platforms.

Follow England vs San Marino in our dedicated blog; watch match highlights 15 minutes after full-time. Watch extended match highlights on Sky Sports Football at 11pm.

These are just some of the international fixtures on offer on Sky Sports, however, all of Thursday's World Cup European Qualifiers - aside from England vs San Marino - are being shown live on either Sky Sports Football, Main Event, Premier League, or on the red button.

And not only that, but you can also watch in-game clips and free match highlights on Sky Sports' digital platforms via our dedicated live blog, so there is plenty to look forward to, including these fixtures:

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Thursday's games

Group B: Pedri one to watch for Spain

Pedri Barcelona
Image: Barcelona 18-year-old Pedri could make his Spain debut

Sweden vs Georgia - 7.45pm kick-off, live on Sky Sports Football red button from 7.40pm
Spain vs Greece - 7.45pm kick-off, live on Sky Sports Football red button from 7.40pm

Barcelona's young prospect Pedri has been included in the Spain squad for the first time, and the 18-year-old trained with the squad on Tuesday as he bids to be involved in Luis Enrique's plans for the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifier against Greece in Granada on Thursday.

Real Madrid and Spain captain Sergio Ramos has been included in Enrique's squad despite his recent injury struggles, while Manchester City's Ferran Torres could partner Juventus' Alvaro Morata in attack.

Spain's previous competitive outing was a 6-0 thrashing of 2014 World champions Germany in the UEFA Nations League back in November last year - a game in which Torres scored a hat-trick.

'La Roja' will be favourites to progress from World Cup qualifying Group B, which as well as Greece, features Georgia, Kosovo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic's Sweden.

Group C: Northern Ireland look to end Italy run

Northern Ireland coach Ian Baraclough watches during the UEFA Nations League football match between Northern Ireland and Norway at Windsor Park in Belfast on September 7, 2020. (Photo by Paul Faith / AFP) (Photo by PAUL FAITH/AFP via Getty Images)
Image: Ian Baraclough's Northern Ireland start their campaign in Italy

Bulgaria vs Switzerland - 5pm kick-off, live on Sky Sports Football red button from 4.55pm
Italy vs Northern Ireland - 7.45pm kick-off, live on Sky Sports Football from 7pm

Italy, who are on a 22-match unbeaten run under Roberto Mancini, welcome Ian Baraclough's Northern Ireland to Parma on Thursday for their opening 2022 World Cup qualifier.

Northern Ireland are looking to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1986.

Live World Cup Qualifier

After Italy, Northern Ireland have a home friendly against the United States on Sunday before Bulgaria visit Windsor Park for a second qualifier on Wednesday.

With Conor Washington out injured and Liam Boyce due to join up with the squad later in the window, there could be an early chance for Accrington forward Dion Charles to make an impression.

Baraclough has called up Linfield striker Shayne Lavery to replace Washington; Lavery, who has five caps for Northern Ireland, has scored 19 goals for Linfield in the Irish League this season, and was on the scoresheet against Crusaders at the weekend.

Baraclough has also added Liverpool goalkeeper Liam Hughes to the group, expanding it to a 27-man squad. It is a first senior call-up for Hughes, who joined Liverpool from Celtic in January. Derry City's uncapped stopper Nathan Gartside is also in the group.

In Group C's other game on Thursday, Bulgaria host Switzerland at 5pm.

Group F: Scotland look to continue progress

PA - Che Adams
Image: Che Adams has chosen to represent Scotland

Israel vs Denmark - 5pm kick-off, live on Sky Sports Football from 5pm
Moldova vs Faroe Islands - 7.45pm kick-off, live on Sky Sports Football red button from 7.40pm
Scotland vs Austria - 7.45pm kick-off, live on Sky Sports Main Event from 7pm

Having secured a place in Euro 2020, Scotland now begin their quest for a first World Cup appearance since 1998, hosting Austria on Thursday night in their Group F opener.

Scotland announced this week they will not take a knee in Thursday's game, but instead stand in solidarity with the fight against racism.

Live World Cup Qualifier

Live World Cup Qualifier

The Scottish game is uniting behind Glen Kamara, who reported being racially abused during Rangers' Europa League game against Slavia Prague last Thursday.

Che Adams has been called up by Scotland for their upcoming World Cup qualifiers; the in-form Southampton striker, who has scored three goals in his last four games, pledged his international allegiance to Scotland following talks with head coach Steve Clarke.

In Thursday's other Group F games, Israel host Denmark, and Moldova host the Faroe Islands.

Group I: England kick-off World Cup bid against minnows

England manager Gareth Southgate
Image: England manager Gareth Southgate sees his side take on San Marino in their World Cup Qualifying opener

Andorra vs Albania - 7.45pm kick-off, live on Sky Sports Football red button from 7.40pm
Hungary vs Poland - 7.45pm kick-off, live on Sky Sports Football red button from 7.40pm
England vs San Marino - 7.45pm kick-off

Marcus Rashford and Bukayo Saka will miss England's opening World Cup qualifier against San Marino on Thursday, while Nick Pope is set to start in goal at Wembley.

Manchester United forward Rashford has a foot problem while Arsenal winger Saka continues to recover from a hamstring injury. Kyle Walker was also not named on the squad list of 23 players submitted to UEFA on Thursday.

Rashford has not trained with the rest of the squad as he continues to work indoors to rehabilitate a foot injury sustained in Manchester United's 1-0 win against AC Milan in the Europa League last Thursday.

The problem ruled the 23-year-old out of the FA Cup quarter-final loss to Leicester, with United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer saying Rashford "wasn't close" to facing the Foxes, although he did still link up with the England group this week as planned.

Saka remains part of Gareth Southgate's squad but is undergoing assessment at his club, with the hope of being available for the fixtures with Albania and Poland.

Saka suffered the injury in the 2-1 north London derby win over Tottenham on March 14 and returned to play 74 minutes of Sunday's 3-3 Premier League draw at West Ham.

The versatile 19-year-old made his Three Lions debut in October and has so far collected four caps, having largely been utilised in more defensive positions before being called up to the current squad as a forward.

Pope is expected to get the nod with regular number one Jordan Pickford injured.

James Maddison, Harvey Barnes, Jadon Sancho and Jack Grealish are all missing from the squad for the upcoming World Cup qualifying triple-header against San Marino, Albania and Poland.

England have won their six internationals against San Marino by an aggregate score of 37-1, with San Marino's one goal coming after eight seconds in a 1994 World Cup qualifier in November 1993 in Bologna; England recovered to win 7-1.

This will also be Southgate's 50th game in charge, the seventh manager to reach this milestone for England.

In Group I's other games, Andorra host Albania, and Hungary host Poland.

Group J: Low's farewell tour begins

Joachim Low has been in charge of the German national team for over 14 years
Image: Joachim Low has been in charge of the German national team for over 14 years

Germany vs Iceland - 7.45pm kick-off, live on Sky Sports Premier League from 7.40pm
Romania vs North Macedonia - 7.45pm kick-off, live on Sky Sports Football red button from 7.40pm
Liechtenstein vs Armenia - 7.45pm kick-off, live on Sky Sports Football red button from 7.40pm

Germany will want to treat their departing coach Joachim Low to a triumphant farewell when he steps down after Euro 2020.

Earlier this month, Low said he would bow out after Euro 2020, but first Germany host Iceland on Thursday and visit Romania on Sunday before a home game against North Macedonia on March 31.

Live World Cup Qualifier

The highlight of Low's reign was winning the 2014 World Cup but his team crashed out of the first round at the 2018 finals and have struggled to perform at their best in recent years.

A 6-0 defeat by Spain in the Nations League in November piled pressure on the current longest-serving coach in international football.

Germany's Toni Kroos has had to pull out of the upcoming internationals with a muscle injury.

In the other group games, Romania host North Macedonia, while Armenia are at Liechtenstein.

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