The 32 nations headed to next summer’s FIFA World Cup have learned their group fates, sparking over six months of dissection, analysis and prognostication ahead of the opening kick on June 14 at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium.
The draw at the Kremlin determined the eight groups, from which the top two teams will advance to the knockout stage. Defending champion Germany is among the favorites, vying to becoming the first team to repeat since Pele’s Brazil did in 1958 and 1962, but it will have to contend with a tough group.
Host Russia was given a relatively simple draw and will open the competition against Saudi Arabia–the lowest-ranked team in the world aside from the host nation.
The most intriguing opening game in group play will be in Group B, where Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal will face 2010 champion Spain.
The most difficult and balanced groups on first glance appear to be Group D and F, but there does not appear to be a definite Group of Death, unlike in 2014.
Here are the eight groups for the 2018 FIFA World Cup:
2. Saudi Arabia
The draw is a sweet one for Russia, though Uruguay and Egypt can pose problems for the hosts. The opening game of the competition will feature the two lowest-ranked teams in the field.
Portugal and Spain is a tasty opener, but both should feel confident of going through from this foursome.
Can Peru make some noise here? The two European nations will be the favorites to go through, but Ricardo Gareca’s Peru side will be a popular sleeper to reach the knockout stage.
There are no easy games in this group, but there’s something awesome about Argentina and Messi opening up against the world’s darling, Iceland. Remember, Iceland finished ahead of Croatia in its qualifying group, and Nigeria just beat a Messi-less Argentina in a recent friendly.
3. Costa Rica
Can Costa Rica go on another deep run? Brazil is surely the favorite to get out of this group, but after outlasting England, Italy and Uruguay in 2014, this is a relative cakewalk for Los Ticos.
4. South Korea
The defending champions will open up against El Tri and it won’t be that much easier after that. This is a deep group, but Germany and Mexico should feel confident of going through–though the runner-up may have to face Brazil in the round of 16.
Belgium and England will feel mighty confident about their chances of going through here.
Poland was the Pot 1 team, but there’s a case to be made that Colombia is the favourite in this group, though you’d be unwise to sleep on Sadio Mane-led Senegal.
Russia 2018 World Cup Results – Full Draw