The 2018 World Cup draw took place Friday at the Kremlin, which seemed as good a place as any to unveil valuable information of vital global interest. Here’s our live coverage and analysis from Moscow.
CreditSergei Chirikov/European Pressphoto Agency
The draw is done and the field is set.
Group A: Russia, Uruguay, Egypt, Saudi Arabia
Group B: Portugal, Spain, Iran, Morocco
Group C: France, Peru, Denmark, Australia
Group D: Argentina, Croatia, Iceland, Nigeria
Group E: Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Serbia
Group F: Germany, Mexico, Sweden, South Korea
Group G: Belgium, England, Tunisia, Panama
Group H: Poland, Colombia, Senegal, Japan
■ Russia, England and France got favorable draws. Portugal will play its neighbor Spain in Group B, and Argentina drew one of the tougher first-round groups, as it was paired with Croatia, Iceland and Nigeria. Mexico, the Concacaf champion, will play Germany, Sweden and South Korea in Group F.
Group A analysis: balance, and two bad teams.
Teams: Russia, Uruguay, Egypt, Saudi Arabia
From Rory Smith in Moscow: The opening game of the World Cup will be Russia against Saudi Arabia: or, to put it another way, the two worst teams in the tournament, according to the FIFA rankings. The group is quite nicely balanced, though: Uruguay will expect to make the last 16, but both Russia and Egypt will have hopes of joining them.
Group B analysis: two favorites, and no guarantees.
Teams: Portugal, Spain, Iran, Morocco
From Rory Smith: Not as bad as it might have been for Portugal and Spain. Both will expect to make it through — though Morocco is not to be underestimated — in a group that also includes Iran. Finishing on top here might prove crucial as the tournament’s knockout round takes shape.
Group C analysis: dream group for France.
Teams: France, Peru, Denmark, Australia
From Rory Smith: If France had imagined an ideal group, it would have been this. Peru was among the weakest of the second seeds, Australia does not have a coach, and Denmark should not trouble them too much. Second place could be intriguing, though.
Group D analysis: the most interesting group, for sure.
Teams: Argentina, Croatia, Iceland, Nigeria
From Rory Smith: Probably the most delicately balanced, most interesting, and most competitive of all the groups. Argentina only just qualified, Croatia has an abundance of individual talent, Iceland a tremendous collective strength and Nigeria was, possibly, the toughest fourth seed to draw. Argentina will not be happy at all.
Group E analysis: a battle for second?
Teams: Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Serbia
From Rory Smith: Brazil will not be nearly as happy as France, however. Serbia, Switzerland and Costa Rica is a relatively kind section for Tite’s team. The battle to join them in the last 16 will be absolutely fascinating, however: there is not much between those three teams. And there may not be many goals between them, either.
Group F analysis: the champions should be happy.
Teams: Germany, Mexico, Sweden, South Korea
From Rory Smith: Like France and Brazil, Germany has nothing to complain about: Sweden is hard-working but limited, and neither South Korea nor Mexico have the quality to derail the reigning champion.
Group G analysis: Two favorites and two sleepers.
Teams: Belgium, England, Tunisia, Panama
From Rory Smith: It should be a straight shootout between England and Belgium to see who claims the top spot and, with it, a theoretically easier second-round fate. The main advantage Panama and Tunisia have is that both will, to some extent, be unknown quantities.
Group H analysis: the most open group of all?
Teams: Poland, Colombia, Senegal, Japan
From Rory Smith: Along with Group A, Group H seems the most evenly spread. Poland was among the weakest top seeds, and Colombia will harbor ambitions of finishing first. Japan and Senegal, though, will both see the Round of 16 as a real possibility now.