The 2018 World Cup Draw was held today. We already knew that the United States was part of the Group of Dead (with Italy and the Netherlands), but which top contenders would be paired?
Because the World Cup Draw was based on FIFA rankings in October, with 4 groups of 8 teams already being put in pots, we knew that the chance that Spain would be drawn into a tough group were high. They were somehow not put in the top pot of 8 teams with fellow recent World Cup winners Germany, Brazil, Argentina, and France. Portugal, Belgium, Poland, along with host Russia, were also in the top pot. The nightmare scenario would have been getting drawn against one of Brazil or Argentina, and then getting a European team like Sweden also drawn in the group.
As it turned out, Spain came out about as well as possible (other than getting directly drawn with Russia) with the draw. They were drawn in to group B with Portugal, and play them in the opener. The other two teams drawn in the group, though, were Morocco and Iran. Spain and Portugal will be heavy favorites to advance out of Group B.
But just as importantly, in looking ahead, they get to play the Group A teams in the Round of 16. Group A includes host Russia, and is the easiest group. The favorite in Group A will be Uruguay, and second place could go to the team that claims the World Cup opener between Russia and Saudi Arabia (and the winner is just as likely to be decided to who uses the most oil money for a bribe). So while that Portugal/Spain tilt will be a contentious affair, the two will be positioned to advance deeply in the tournament regardless of whether they finish 1st or 2nd.
Meanwhile, Mexico got a very tough draw. Mexico is paired with World Cup winner Germany, and Sweden, who has already eliminated both the Netherlands and Italy in World Cup qualifying, along with the Korea Republic. That’s going to be a hard enough group to advance out of, but the 2nd place finisher is then likely staring at a Round of 16 game against the Group E winner, which is likely Brazil. The Group E/F quadrant is definitely the toughest, with several teams that could advance and two of the favorites, Germany and Brazil, looking at tough tests.
Here is the full draw: