The Three Lions were handed a relatively easy draw on Friday (1 December), as they were pitted against Tunisia, Panama and Belgium in Group G and failure to qualify would represent a considerable embarrassment.
However, the FA chief executive, Martin Glenn dismissed the notion England had got lucky with the draw, even though the Three Lions avoided the some of the heavyweights in pot one, which included Brazil, Germany, France, Argentina and Portugal.
"I don't think any draw's a dream draw," he was quoted as saying by the Guardian. "We are up against one of the top teams in the world in Belgium. They're ranked four or five. We know a bit about Tunisia. I think we played them in the first game in the '98 World Cup. We've never played Panama so we need to get prepared for those games.
"There was definitely a [possible] group of death but no one got it. And no one got an absolute patsy draw either. History says the small teams in the World Cup refuse to play like small teams."
Despite Glenn's words, England are heavy favourites to qualify from their group alongside Belgium but the FA CEO said even a dismal campaign in Russia would not spell the end for Southgate.
"Gareth has a long-term contract," he added.
"He's not looking at Russia as a free pass. The World Cup's a really important staging post for our development, I think. We go out there wanting to win it but also being realistic. No one wants to have a bad World Cup but we're confident he's the right guy to take us through for the next few tournaments."
The former Middlesbrough manager took the reins of the national team in November 2016 as Sam Allardyce's tenure lasted just one game and saw England remain unbeaten throughout the qualifying process.
However, while Southgate's side boasted the best defensive record in Europe, the 47-year-old has been criticised for an overly conservative brand of football and Glenn admitted England's recent performances at major tournaments had dampened expectations.
"Wherever we go, a performance at the World Cup that's created a buzz, got people excited," he said.
"For me, it recreates the excitement that a lot of us remember from the past but, probably, a generation of people haven't really experienced. I think that'll be brilliant."
While the senior team has failed to generate enthusiasm, England's youth system is in rude health, after winning the Under-17 and Under-20 World Cups this year. Glenn pointed to those achievements as proof English football was finally following in the footsteps of its German and Spanish counterparts.
"We're going to do it in a way that's sustainable," he said.
"So we're going to make sure that we're picking the kind of players that can do their best in Russia and continue to kick on in 2020 and 2022.
"What we're doing is making sure that players that have made it through to the first team by 21, 22, have had lots and lots of tournament experience. We know that worked for the Germans and we know that worked for the Spanish, so we're just repeating things they've done with our own emphasis on it."