The FIFA World Cup finals in Russia open on Thursday 14th June with the hosts Russia taking on Saudi Arabia in Moscow. They are two lowest ranked
teams in the competition.
Notable absentees are four times world cup winners - Italy, 3 times runners-up and former European Champions - the Netherlands, Copa América holders
- Chile and the hosts of 1994 and coming 2026 competition - USA.
Here is the draw.
World Cup Groups:
: Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Uruguay
: Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Iran
: France, Australia, Peru, Denmark
: Argentina, Iceland, Croatia, Nigeria
: Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Serbia
: Germany, Sweden, Mexico, South Korea
: Belgium, Panama, Tunisia, England
: Poland, Senegal, Colombia, Japan
At first glance it looks like Russia, as hosts, have an easier task than some of the other seeds to make it through to the next round. But Egypt and
Uruguay will be no pushovers and are higher ranked nations. Beating Saudi Arabia in the opening game is essential to keep the hosts hopes alive. But
they could well bow out in the group stage. A fate that only one other host nation South Africa, in 2010, has faced
Portugal and Spain look favourites to get out of Group B and there is a tasty Iberian ‘derby’ match to look forward to. But the Iranians are a
tricky side and if the Portuguese are as slow starting as they were at the Euros in France then their final game with Iran may well be their last one.
A lot hinges on how the first game between Spain and Portugal goes.
The two European sides France and Denmark are definitely favourites here. Australia who still rely on 37 year old Tim Cahill will have to face both
those sides in their two opening games and could well be on their way home by the time they face Peru in what could be a dead rubber.
While this is not quite a ‘group of death’ it could spring a surprise or two.
Argentina, despite having one the world’s finest teams on paper, made hard work of qualifying for Russia. Croatia and Iceland find themselves in the
same group again after both making it through the same qualifying group. Croatia are a skilful team and likely to provide a difficult test for others
in the group. Nigeria is another nation with a fine football pedigree. This is surely Iceland’s ‘golden generation of footballers’ and the
achievement of reaching a World Cup Finals for such a sparsely populated nation is arguably their finest moment. But did they peak at Euro 2016 when
they cough, errr beat hmmm another European nation! It will be exciting to find out what happens in a difficult to predict group.
Brazil will surely, surely win the group? Costa Rica, Switzerland and Serbia will slug it out to see who makes it through with them. The Swiss are
slight favourites but don’t rule out Serbia or Costa Rica joining Brazil in the knock-out rounds.
Germany had a patchy build up to this World Cup but once the tournament starts they tend to get it together. They are World Champions and should
dominate the group. Sweden knocked out Italy in the play-offs and should not be under-rated. They will probably challenge Mexico for the other
qualifying spot in the group with South Korea being the also-rans here.
Belgium’s “golden generation” could be dark horses in this tournament but they ‘choked under pressure’ in Euro 2016. An inexperienced
England side should make it through with the Belgians. But Tunisia and Panama are fairly unknown quantities at this level. There might be a surprise
The bookmakers seem to hint any two from Poland, Senegal and Colombia to qualify with Japan making up the numbers. Don’t write anything off in this
As the tournament progresses I will update the results and add other information. Please feel free to join in with any comments you have and let’s
hope this is a great festival of football.
edit on 13/6/2018 by mirageman because: tidy up