The Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup group stage draw took place today, 1st December, at the State Kremlin Palace in Moscow. In attendance to open the draw were FIFA President Gianni Infantino and Russia President Vladimir Putin. In his speech welcoming the participants, Mr. Putin whose country is facing a doping ban from the Olympics spoke about the spirit of “fair-play.”
This was the first draw since 1998 which former FIFA president Sepp Blatter did not oversee having been ousted two years due to a corruption scandal. The World Cup kicks off on June 14th when hosts Russia will play the first game in Moscow. The finals will be held on 15th July. Germany are the defending champions and will be looking to be the second team to be crowned as champions in two consecutive World Cup tournaments since Brazil in 1958 and 1962.
After the seeding of the teams based on FIFA rankings, the 32 teams that qualified were divided into four pots. Here are the pots:
Russia, Germany, Brazil, Portugal, Argentina, Belgium, Poland, France
Spain, Peru, Switzerland, England, Colombia, Mexico, Uruguay, Croatia
Denmark, Iceland, Costa Rica, Sweden, Tunisia, Egypt, Senegal, Iran
Serbia, Nigeria, Australia, Japan, Morocco, Panama, South Korea, Saudi Arabia
Here is the draw in full:
Brazil and Germany are the early favorites to be crowned World Champions with odds @ 6.00. France are third with odds @ 7.00 while Spain is fourth with odds @ 7.5. Argentina are at odds of 9.00 while hosts Russia are at odds of 34.00 to lift the World Cup on 15th July. Iceland and Mexico are at odds of 101.00 to win and the longest shot has Tunisia, Saudi Arabia and Panama at odds of 501.00
Although the draw did not produce a “group of death”, it will be interesting to see how teams like Argentina will play in a tricky group that includes Croatia, Iceland and Nigeria. Concacaf champions Mexico will play against Germany whilst Portugal will line up against neighbors Spain. Russia, Brazil, England and France all got favorable draws.