The 2018 FIFA World Cup draw has finally been made in Russia, ahead of next summer’s tournament.
Germany are the reigning champions, having emerged victorious in 2014 after beating Argentina in the 2014 FIFA World Cup final.
This time around, they face tough competition as the likes of Brazil, Nigeria, Spain and France look set to mount a challenge for the Jules Rimet Trophy.
Whilst Iceland and Panama make their World Cup debut, we will be without several historic teams including;
The draw involves eight teams in four pots according to their FIFA ranking.
England are in pot 2 and will avoid a group stage meeting with any of Spain, Colombia or Mexico.
Their best group would be; Belgium, England, Iran and Panama.
The worst possible group could be; Argentina/Brazil, England, Sweden and Nigeria.
|Pot 1||Pot 2||Pot 3||Pot 4|
With the draw now out, which groups will see tasty battles and will any of the top countries get an easy passage to the knockout stages?
I am also predicting which two from each group will qualify for the knockout stages.
As hosts, Russia will be happy with this group.
They along with Egypt and Uruguay should easily get three points against Saudi Arabia but it will be interesting to see which two of those three get through to the knockout stages.
Uruguay should definitely get through but Egypt comfortably qualified from their confederation.
Russia as hosts will have the nation behind them so am predicting Russia and Uruguay to just scrape through.
Prediction: Russia and Uruguay
Morocco have the Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Romain Saiss and Southampton’s Sofiane Boufal within their team but this will be an easy group for the big two.
All three should easily thrash Iran though.
Prediction: Portugal and Spain
This is a tricky group because France will be favourites to progress but any of other three can qualify too for last 16.
Peru haven’t met any of their group rivals so are unknown.
Denmark and Australia have met in three friendlies, with the Danish winning two and losing one.
With that in mind and the fact that this meeting will be competitive, I expect the winner of that to join France in last 16.
Its difficult to call but I am going to plump for Denmark, solely for fact that they have Christian Eriksen.
Prediction: France and Denmark.
Argentina will be relieved to get this group after a difficult qualifying campaign.
Croatia and Iceland will both fancy their chances but Nigeria will be real threats.
They comfortably dispatched their qualifying group with no losses and again draw Argentina for fifth time in six World Cup appearances.
I expect that to be a key game but if Nigeria are on song with likes of Wilfred Ndidi and Kelechi Iheanacho, they will probably edge out the two European teams to progress.
Prediction: Argentina and Nigeria
This will be a challenging group for all teams.
Brazil’s Neymar will have the ghost of his meeting with Switzerland in 2009’s FIFA World Cup, hanging over him as that was the moment that set up his rise into a superstar.
If he can overcome those demons and beat the Swiss, expect Brazil to qualify.
The final qualification spot could be any of the other three but I am backing Switzerland. I say this because they are tough to beat and only dropped one match en route to qualification via UEFA play offs.
Prediction: Brazil and Switzerland
This could be a tricky group for Germany, Mexico and Sweden.
All three teams should cruise past South Korea but it will be their head to head games that decides who goes through.
Most other groups seem decent so think this might be the group of death with a shock early exit for Germany.
The Germans have cleared every group stage they featured in since losing in the 1938 World Cup at first round stage, making this decision tough but there has to be a shock somewhere.
Prediction: Mexico and Sweden
Belgium and England should easily escape this group without saying much more.
The Three Lions met Tunisia at 1998 World Cup in group stage and won so got history there.
Panama then comes next, which is a virtual known given that we haven’t met them before.
Belgium might be dark horses but England have avoided defeat in 19 of 21 meetings, although their sole World Cup meeting in 1954 ended in a 4-4 thriller.
Even if don’t get a thriller this time, I expect both European sides to pull through.
Prediction: Belgium and England
Senegal will be tricky opposition here but I am expecting the strength of Poland and Colombia to safely see both teams through.
Prediction: Poland and Colombia
Predicted route to final
Regardless of whether England qualify as group G winners or runner up, they are predicted a brutal run to the final.
Table below shows the projected route to final as either group winner or runner up.
|Knockout Stage||If qualify as group winners||If qualify as runner ups|
Both paths are absolutely brutal but if I had to choose a path, I would go for the group winners path.
The reason why I have picked that path is that we have played Brazil, France and Germany in friendlies over past year.
We therefore will be more comfortable facing them than likes of Poland and Spain in other path.
In end, I think we will exit at Quarter Final stage at best but as long as we go deeper than did at 2014 World Cup, I will be happy.