St. Petersburg, Russia: Spain and Italy have been placed in the same 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying round-robin group, which also includes Albania, Israel, Macedonia and Liechtenstein.
Competition from the Italians means Vicente Del Bosque's squad will have a difficult task in gaining direct entry to the World Cup in the first round of European qualifying, although even if they finish in second place in Group G, they can book a spot in the second-round play-offs, Efe reported on Saturday. The World Cup qualifying draw ceremony was held here on Saturday,
The Netherlands, France and Sweden were placed in a difficult Group A, while Portugal and Switzerland are the top teams in Group B.
Defending World Cup champions Germany and the Czech Republic are the favourites in Group C, while Wales, Austria and Serbia were inserted in Group D, Romania, Denmark and Poland in Group E, England and Slovakia in Group F, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Greece in Group H, and Croatia, Iceland, Ukraine and Turkey in Group I.
Russia have qualified automatically as host nation of the next World Cup, to be held from June 14 to July 15, 2018.
The first round of European qualifying will kick off on September 4 to 6 next year, while the second-round play-offs will take place in November 2017.
In the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) qualifying for the World Cup, Mexico were placed in the same group with Honduras and two other teams to be determined, while the US were matched up against Trinidad and Tobago and two other teams that have not yet qualified for the fourth round.
If Mexico and the US both finish in the top two of their respective groups, they will qualify for a so-called six-team hexagonal, in which the squads will play off between November 2016 and October 2017 for three World Cup berths.
The first CONCACAF fourth-round matches will take place in November of this year.