As the 32 qualifying nations are placed into World Cup groups on Friday, one group will receive an onerous distinction. No one is safe from the Group of Death, and it’s the only thing teams are looking to avoid for Friday’s draw.
Often times there is a most difficult group at the World Cup, but some are judicious with the distinction. In 2014, the toughest group contained Netherlands, Chile, Spain and Australia, but Spain manager Vincent del Bosque did not deem the group worthy of the moniker. There were similar sentiments in 2010, when Brazil, Portugal, Ivory Coast and North Korea were all grouped together, but the inclusion of North Korea leaves the foursome short of “Death” status.
Like many World Cups, Group A definitely isn’t the one earning that title. The host country is automatically slotted into that group, and Russia enters this tournament as the lowest-ranked nation according to FIFA. In 2014, Brazil reached the semifinals as host nation, the deepest run since Germany in 2006.
Heres how the 32 teams were organized for this years draw:
Pot 1: Russia, Germany, Brazil, Portugal, Argentina, Belgium, Poland, France
Pot 2: Spain, Switzerland, England, Colombia, Mexico, Uruguay, Croatia, Peru
Pot 3: Iceland, Costa Rica, Sweden, Tunisia, Egypt, Senegal, Iran, Denmark
Pot 4: Nigeria, Australia, Japan, Morocco, Panama, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Serbia
In advance of the draw, there are a few dangerous pairs of teams in Pots 1 and 2 that could make for a scary group. No country wants to start their tournament against the likes of Germany, Portugal or France, but teams like England and Colombia in the second group can make qualification extremely difficult.
If you want a deeper team that could cause some problems, look no further than Iceland. Their triumphs at EURO are well-documented, and they, along with Costa Rica and Sweden, could prove to be much more formidable than other teams in the group.
Obviously, the United States have no worries about the Group of Death. They escaped one of the hardest groups in 2014, joining Germany out of Group G over Portugal and Ghana. In their place in Pot 4 is Panama, who have reached their first-ever World Cup.
According to some experts, the absence of some of the bigger nations make a Group of Death in 2018 unlikely. European contenders Italy and Netherlands, normally regular World Cup contenders, will be noticeably absent. Chile, two-time winner of the South American crown, has also failed to qualify. Those are teams that would have been placed deeper in the pool, making it more likely to create a Group of Death among the 32 teams.
The teams are currently being drawn: Refresh this page for the latest updates:
2. Saudi Arabia
3. Costa Rica
4. South Korea
Group of Death
I don’t think there’s a Group of Death. I wouldn’t want to be Switzerland, who face an uphill battle in Group E with a pair of tough South American teams. Group D also looks tight, but Argentina just barely escaped South American qualifying and have not yet returned to the form of World Cup finalist. If the United States had qualified instead of Panama, they’d have a very tough road through the group stage with tests against Belgium and England.
Russia will face Saudi Arabia in the first match of the 2018 World Cup Final on June 14th, 2018.