World Cup group-stage draw: Reaction from countries and regions
The draw for the group stage of the 2018 FIFA World Cup is complete. Here's what our writers around the world made of events in Moscow, what the match-ups mean for their country or region and who might win it all next July.
Joachim Low was at his most relaxed before the draw and the Bundestrainer won't feel too nervous after learning the composition of the group stage either. The world champions avoided an African team -- they have struggled against Ghana and Algeria in recent times -- and don't come up against any recognised heavyweights. The only possible negative is the fact that the first game will be against Mexico, the trickiest opponents of the group. With one game each in Moscow and Sochi, Germany will play once "at home." They had earmarked base camps in either city, with the final decision to be made after the draw. -- Raf Honigstein
Brazil is SPI's favorite to win the 2018 World Cup: pic.twitter.com/zEnLeCbOk0— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 1, 2017
Julen Lopetegui predicted on Thursday that "Spain's will be the most difficult group in Russia" but it isn't. Nothing like it. The eye is drawn to the opening game against Portugal but there's time and points available against Morocco and Iran to recover for the loser of that match, assuming it's not a draw. Then there's geography: Victory in Russia will mean big travel for anyone, but it's a hop and a skip from La Roja's training camp in Krasnodar to that opening game in Sochi. Nor, frankly, will there be panic about facing however emerges from Group A in the next round. -- Graham Hunter
Gareth Southgate will not admit it publicly but England have landed a dream draw in Group G. Having avoided the super-power seeds of Brazil, Germany and Argentina, Belgium can be beaten and top spot can be secured. Tunisia and Panama will not make life easy but those are two countries England will expect to defeat. And to cap it all, the travelling involved is reasonably straightforward, so England and Southgate have had a result. -- Mark Ogden
England could hardly have asked for softer World Cup draw. Good chance to make quarter finals. But history breeds utmost caution.— Ian Darke (@IanDarke) December 1, 2017
This is a great draw. Didier Deschamps and his players wanted to avoid Spain or England from Pot 2 and were hoping for a draw that would enable them to get stronger through the group stage to reach full strength for the Round of 16. It is a similar profile of opponents to 2014, when France played Switzerland, Honduras and Ecuador. Les Bleus are certainly stronger now and again will have an easy start. -- Julien Laurens
The draw couldn't have been much more difficult, with the opener against holders Germany, followed by games against Korea Republic and Sweden. El Tri was defeated 4-1 in last summer's Confederations Cup by a Germany B team that exposed defensive vulnerabilities, while Sweden showed what a tough unit it can be against Italy in the playoffs. They were also the second-tallest team in qualifying and their style is the type Mexico would've wanted to avoid. On the positive side, Mexico opens in Moscow, where the team is hoping to secure its base for the tournament. But there will be very little margin for error in Group F and, in the Round of 16, Brazil could await. -- Tom Marshall
Difficult draw for Mexico at Russia 2018 in Group F:— Tom Marshall (@mexicoworldcup) December 1, 2017
vs. Germany -June 17 - Moscow
vs. Korea -June 23 - Rostov
vs. Sweden -June 27 - Yekaterinburg#eltrieng
Group F goes up against winner/runner-up in Group E in Round of 16: Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Serbia
No World Cup has ever been won in the draw but, among the historical candidates, Brazil was left in the best position. They should win Group E without trouble and that would give them an easy ride until the semifinals, where they would likely find France.
Argentina avoided England and Spain and were paired against the weakest European team from Pot 2, Croatia. Iceland will be making its appearance and Nigeria has lost four out of four World Cup clashes against Argentina. Meanwhile, games in Moscow, Nizhny Novgorod and Saint Petersburg mean easy travel plans.
Colombia can also celebrate, since Poland seems to be the weakest of the seeds; Russia has a worse ranking but is the host. Japan and Senegal do not look like big threats. Uruguay have fallen into the weakest group according to FIFA rankings, even with the host nation. Peru had the worst draw of the region, but their hopes of making it through in Group C seem to depend on getting past Denmark in their opening game. -- Diego Zorrilla
There were mixed fortunes for Africa's five representatives in Friday's World Cup draw. Morocco were pitched alongside reigning European champions Portugal, 2010 World Cup winners Spain, and Iran. While Herve Renard will relish the spotlight during two heavyweight clashes, his reputation as a savvy, tactical astute coach for the big occasion will be tested...as will Morocco's watertight defence.
Nigeria will meet Argentina yet again and will be boosted by a recent 4-2, come-from-behind victory over the South American giants, but also face Croatia and Iceland. Elsewhere, Senegal and Egypt look decent bets to reach the knockout stages, but Tunisia, arguably Africa's weakest side, find themselves in Group G against England, Belgium and Panama. -- Ed Dove
There were some tough draws for AFC teams (Iran, Saudi Arabia, Japan, South Korea and Australia) on Friday but there is hope for all. The continent's number one hope, Iran, had been the only AFC representative in Pot 3 but were rewarded with Portugal and Spain. An opening game against Morocco is a must-win. South Korea also have a tough group and will likely be fighting for second place behind Germany along with Mexico and Sweden. Korea at their best can match both but haven't been at their best for some time.
Saudi Arabia open the tournament against hosts Russia. If ever there is a time to make a statement, it is in Moscow as the two lowest-ranked teams meet. Uruguay will be tricky but Egypt are beatable. It won't be easy but is about as good as the Green Falcons could have hoped for. It could have been worse for Japan against Colombia, Senegal and Poland while Australia, even without a coach at present, will be happy with France, Peru and Denmark. -- John Duerden
Having endured horror draws in the past, Australian fans will feel relatively comfortable with what's in store for their fourth consecutive World Cup. The greatest challenge will be first up for the Socceroos vs. France in Kazan, which is near to the team's base for the tournament, where an unlikely point would be an excellent result. Matches follow against Denmark and Peru, both of whom will be tricky opponents, but Australia will feel victories are achievable. Now that their opponents are known, however, the uncertainty exists within Australia's own camp, as they must appoint a new head coach after the exit of Ange Postecoglou. -- Rob Brooks
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