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Five Aside

SPI: Brazil most likely to win World Cup 2018 ahead of Spain, Germany

The FIFA World Cup draw was held Friday and the 32 teams found out their groups for the tournament next summer. Let's take a look at the draw results with assistance from FiveThirtyEight's Soccer Power Index (SPI):

Two groups contain multiple teams in the top 10 of SPI. Group B has No. 7-ranked Portugal and No. 2-ranked Spain, who will face off in their opening match. Spain eliminated Portugal in the round of 16 of the 2010 World Cup and the semifinals of Euro 2012. This is the most difficult group by average SPI rating, with the four teams having an average rank of 81.7 out of 100.

Group G is the other with two top-10 teams in SPI with No. 4-ranked Belgium and No. 8-ranked England. However, it also contains Panama (No. 43) and Tunisia (No. 53), and as a result is the second-easiest group by average SPI rating (76.0). Both Belgium (80 percent) and England (75 percent) have at least a 75 percent chance to advance to the round of 16, the only group that has two such teams.

Coming in immediately behind Group B in terms of overall difficulty is Group F, which contains three teams in the top 17 of SPI -- No. 3-ranked Germany, No. 14-ranked Mexico and No. 17-ranked Sweden. Germany defeated Mexico 4-1 in the Confederations Cup semifinals last summer, and is 2-0-1 all time against Mexico in the World Cup. SPI sees it as a near toss-up for who is likely to advance with Germany, as Mexico is a slight favorite at 51 percent to Sweden's 48 percent (Germany is 83 percent).

The only group without a team ranked in the top 10 of SPI is Group A, as host Russia is ranked 27th. The top-ranked team in that group is Uruguay at No. 11. Group A also contains the lowest-ranked team in the field with No. 73 Saudi Arabia, and as a result is by far the easiest group in terms of average SPI rating at 71.6.

The third-easiest group according to SPI is Group H, with an average rating of 77.4. The top team in Group H came from Pot 2 in No. 10-ranked Colombia. It will be the only group not to feature a former World Cup winner.

Brazil's Neymar, Paulinho and Marcelo celebrate goal against Ecuador
Brazil are No. 1 in the SPI after the group-stage for the 2018 World Cup was made.

Group D contains former World Cup champion Argentina and its familiar opponent Nigeria. This is the sixth time Nigeria has qualified for the World Cup, and it is the fifth time it has been in the same group as Argentina. Group D also features Croatia, a 1-0 loser to Argentina in the 1998 group stage, their only previous World Cup meeting. With all four teams in the top 30 of SPI rankings, Group D is the third-most difficult group by average rating (80.2).

Coming in just behind with an average SPI rating of 80.0 is Group E, which features five-time World Cup champion Brazil, the No. 1 overall team in SPI. Also in Group E is Costa Rica from CONCACAF. Brazil and Costa Rica have met twice previously in the World Cup, both group-stage wins by Brazil.

Finally, Group C, which contains 1998 World Cup champion France, the No. 6 team in SPI. A good omen for France could be the presence of Peru in its group, as in each of Peru's previous four World Cup appearances it has faced the eventual champion.

Chance to win 2018 World Cup 

Brazil = 20.8 percent
Spain = 15.9 percent
Germany = 10.9 percent
Argentina = 7.0 percent
France = 6.0 percent
Belgium = 5.7 percent
Portugal = 5.4 percent
England = 4.9 percent

Looking past the group stage, FiveThirtyEight's SPI gives three teams at least a 10 percent chance to win the World Cup. The favorite is No. 1 Brazil at 21 percent, followed by No. 2 Spain at 16 percent and No. 3 Germany at 11 percent.

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