FOOTBALL THOUGHTS 

Review: World Cup Group Draw #Russia2018

The much awaited World Cup group draw happened on Friday with all the 32 teams being drawn into 8 groups of four teams each. This year saw major players miss out on qualification with teams like Italy, USA, Chile and the Netherlands not taking part in the tournament next year. Having done an introduction to the World cup here, let us look at the groups.

GROUP A

Teams: Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Uruguay

The group saw the hosts, Russia, drawn first with the rest of the slots being filled by the teams from Middle East, Africa and South America. Saudi Arabia will be the first Asian team to play in the World Cup curtain raiser when they face hosts Russia, who were seeded top for the first time.

The group might not look exciting at first with Russia and Uruguay looking like favorites to go through but I’ll have my eyes on Egypt as the dark horse in the group. It will also be interesting to see how Saudi Arabia fair against some of the most renowned teams in the world football stage.

GROUP B

Teams: Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Iran.

The group draw seems to have worked more in favor of the “big” teams. It will be interesting to see who tops this group with both Spain and Portugal gunning for the top spot.  Portugal, top seeded for the first time, and Spain are the last three UEFA EURO winners (Spain in 2008/2012 and Portugal in 2016) while IR Iran coach Carlos Queiroz will face Portugal, the team he led at the 2010 World Cup.

It’s interesting that the first two groups are mostly made up of Muslim nations with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Morocco and Iran finding themselves in both groups. Hopefully there will be an upset and some of the teams will make it past the group stages.

GROUP C

Teams: France, Australia, Peru and Denmark

This group sees one of the tournament favorites, France, who will meet fellow European side Denmark for the third time in the group stage after 1998 (France won 2-1) and 2002 (Denmark won 2-0). Peru and Australia were among the last teams to qualify for the world cup and will have to give a great representation for their countries. Australia have been around for a while, qualifying for consecutive world cups, but are yet to make it out of the group stages. As for Peru, getting through the South American qualifications is hard enough so they should be a handful for the teams in the group.

GROUP D

Teams: Argentina, Iceland, Croatia and Nigeria

Argentina were the last non-top seeds to lift the World Cup Trophy, when they did it in 1986. Since that tournament, there has been at least one European newcomer at each World Cup (Iceland in 2018). The South Americans almost joined the group of “big’ teams missing the world cup next year but for some good performances in the last couple of games.

This is one of the interesting groups in the world cup and even though we expect Argentina to make it through it will be interesting to see who joins them. Croatia have been around on the world football stage for years and Nigeria’s team is finally coming into the fold with a mix of both young exciting talent and the experienced players.

Nigeria offered a glimpse of their potential with a recent comeback win over Argentina, with the two offering great matches in past world cups, but many will point to the fact that it was only a friendly.

GROUP E

Teams: Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rica and Serbia

Brazil have the most exciting squad going into the world cup next year with a superstar filled lineup constituting the likes of Neymar, Jesus and Coutinho. They are largely expected to make it out of the group with the second slot left for the other 3 teams.

Costa Rica head coach Oscar Ramirez played against Brazil at the 1990 World Cup, when Los Ticos lost narrowly 1-0 in Turin. It will be interesting to see how they fair against the European sides.

GROUP F

Teams: Germany, Mexico, Sweden and Korea Republic.

Group F is the only group in which all of the countries have hosted a previous World Cup: Germany (1974, 2006), Mexico (1970, 1986), Sweden (1958) and Korea Republic (2002).

The Germans won the previous tournament in Brazil and still have one of the most talented squad going into the tournament next year. A match against Brazil later on in the tournament should wet every football fans appetite for an exciting game.

GROUP G

Teams: Belgium, Panama, Tunisia and England

This is the group of the unbeaten with Belgium, England and Tunisia all going undefeated throughout World Cup qualifying. Whether the same is seen at the world cup is quit improbable. All eyes will be on Belgium and England to make it out of the group but the North Africans and South Americans are certain to give them a run for their money.

English teams always go into tournaments with great expectation and pressure and this squad will have it no different – if not worse. Is this the new golden generation? A good world cup will be the judge of that.

GROUP H

Teams: Poland, Senegal, Colombia and Japan

Group H is the only group at Russia 2018 to not contain a previous World Cup champion. Three of the coaches Nawalka (POL), Cisse (SEN), Halilhodzic (JPN) – the latterof whom played for Yugoslavia in 1982 – have been players at the World Cup.

The group will also be notable for having some of the best attacking talent in the European leagues with Bayern Munich’s Lewandowski, Liverpool’s Mane and Monaco’s Falcao.

 

As stated earlier, the groups seem to work in favor of the major teams in the tournament but we will all be looking forward to a few surprises. Next up we will cover each team individually, analyzing their strengths, weaknesses and chance of progression.

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