It’s December 1st and Christmas came early for global soccer fans, the 2018 World Cup in Russia had it’s final draw to determine where the hosts and the other 31 teams would be seeded for group play. With dignitaries from World Cups past there to make the selection, everyone found out just how the tournament would start next summer in Russia.
As World Cup hosts it’s probable that Russia received the most favorable group in Group A. Russia will be seeded number one as the host was grouped with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Uruguay. A lot can happen in six months but the hosts should be favored to move on along with Uruguay who will be bringing Luis Suarez and his teeth to possibly his last World Cup.
In Group B there will be a clash of Iberian powers as the current European champions Portugal and the 2010 World Cup champions Spain will face off in the first group match. The rivals are joined by Morocco and Iran who are capable of giving the European powers tough matches, but are unlikely to move on to the knockout rounds. This may be Ronaldo’s last chance at lifting a World Cup trophy with Portugal and it will be a difficult journey starting with Spain.
In Group C France headlines the group as they face Australia, Peru, and Iran. France likely wins the group meaning it will be a dogfight amongst Peru who returns to the World Cup for the first time since 1982, Iran who has never made it out of group play, and Morocco who return to a World Cup for the first time in 20 years.
In Group D Lionel Messi and Argentina, runners up in the last World Cup will face Iceland, Croatia, and Nigeria. Messi and Argentina will start their World Cup journey facing darling Iceland that qualified as the smallest nation ever to reach the World Cup Finals. After a surprising quarterfinal run at the 2016 Euros, Iceland will bring their Viking Call to Russia looking to put up more shocking results.
In Group E Five-time World Cup champions Brazil will face Switzerland, Costa Rica, and Serbia. Brazil likely moves on and Switzerland will likely move on with them. But don’t underestimate Costa Rica who were eliminated by penalties in the quarterfinals at the 2014 World Cup. Serbia managed the qualification stage with only one loss and will be looking to get to the knockout stage for the first time since 1998 when it was still Serbia & Montenegro.
Group F is looking like the dreaded “Group of Death,” as current World Cup holders Germany will take on Sweden, Mexico, and South Korea. Everyone is expecting that Germany will get three wins on the way to the knockout phase, meaning it will be a tough go for the other three teams. Sweden needed a playoff upset of Italy to make the World Cup Finals, while CONCACAF powerhouse Mexico will be looking for their first knockout phase win outside of when they hosted the tournament, South Korea’s best showing was a fourth place finish when they hosted the tournament in 2002.
In Group G the “inventors” of the game England will face Belgium, Tunisia, and Panama. It is likely that England and Belgium will get out of the group as Panama qualified for first time in their history and Tunisia returns to the World Cup for the first time since the 2006 edition. For Belgium and England this will be a matter of seeding to see who plays the Group H winner. It remains to be seen if England can avoid another knockout phase loss via penalties.
In Group H Poland, Colombia, Japan, and Senegal round out the final group. Colombia looks to build on their previous result when they made their first World Cup quarterfinal in 2014, the Colombians boast a strong squad and will likely count on James Rodriguez who was Golden Boot winner and leading scorer in Brazil at the 2014 World Cup. This may be Poland’s strongest team since coming in third in 1982 as they boast Bayern Munich great Robert Lewandoski. Japan and Senegal will have to bring their best game to Russia if they look to pull off an upset and advance over the favored teams.
There you have it, the World Cup draw, with the opening game still six months away a lot will happen from now until then but one thing for sure is that the world will be watching for upsets, goals, and great moments in the world’s greatest sporting competition.