On Wednesday, 264 days after Brazil became the first team to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, Peru defeated New Zealand in the second leg of the OFC vs. CONMEBOL playoff round to become the final team to punch a ticket to the dance. Now that the field is (practically) set, we're counting down the days before the start of the tournament. But before the first match kicks off June 14 in Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium, we'll need to know what group each team is in.
Here's everything you need to know about the World Cup draw:
When is the World Cup draw?
The draw takes place Friday, Dec. 1 from Kremlin in Moscow at 10 a.m. ET for those in the United States.
Where can I watch or stream the World Cup draw?
You can catch the draw on Fox Sports 1 on TV and you can stream the event on fuboTV (try for free).
How many teams are in the World Cup and how does the group stage work?
There are 32 teams in the World Cup broken into eight groups of four teams. UEFA, Europe's soccer governing body, will have 14 participants, which is the most out of any other continent and nearly half of the field. CONMEBOL (South America), CAF (Africa) and AFC (Asia) each have five participants, while CONCACAF (Central and North America) will have three participants.
FIFA is set to expand in 2026 (after Qatar 2022) to 48 teams.
How does the draw work?
All of the participants are split into four different pots based on the FIFA World Rankings, with Pot 1 being the strongest teams and Pot 4 being the weakest of the crop. The host nation, Russia, will automatically be placed in Pot 1 and in Group A.
How is this different from other World Cup draws?
The pots used to be determined based by "geographic and sports criteria." For example, in the previous World Cup (Brazil 2014), FIFA placed the seven highest ranked teams in Pot 1 and that was it. The other pots were split based on geographic regions (Pot 2 was for Africa and South America, Pot 3 for Asia and North America, Pot 4 for Europe). This time around they're split up based on the rankings.
Which FIFA World Rankings are they using for the draw?
The seeding of teams in each pot are based off the October 2017 FIFA World Rankings. The draw takes place on the first day of December and the November rankings are readily available. So why October? Well, the October rankings reflect the end of the World Cup qualifying cycle and not the results from the intercontinental and European playoff rounds. I'm not a fan of the algorithm used by FIFA to come up with the ranked field. In a perfect world, FIFA should hold the draw a little closer to June and use fresher rankings, but that might be too much of an ask because of ticket sales.
What are the World Cup pots?
Here are the seeds for all 32 teams (with FIFA World Ranking in parenthesis):
|POT 1||POT 2||POT 3||POT 4|
Russia (65) (hosts)
Costa Rica (22)
South Korea (62)
Saudi Arabia (63)
The biggest takeaway from the way these pots are structured is that Spain just missed out on becoming a Pot 1 team. France took that final spot. You'll notice Poland is sixth. I don't think it would be a shocking opinion to say that the 2010 World Cup winners belong in the first pot over Poland.
Can teams from the same continent wind up in the same group?
Yes, and no. Teams from the same confederation will not be drawn against each other in the group stage. This applies to every confederation except UEFA. As we touched on earlier, there are 14 European teams, which means it's impossible to spread them into separate groups. You're bound to get a few in the same group. FIFA limits no more than two European teams in each group. UEFA nations outside of the top pot include Spain, Switzerland, England, Croatia, Denmark, Iceland, Sweden and Serbia. A few from those eight are bound to get paired with a second European team in a group.
What would a potential group of death look like?
Trick question. Here's why:
Mr. Cox is absolutely right about this. Here are some groups of death from previous World Cups:
2014: Spain, Netherlands, Chile, Australia; England, Italy, Uruguay, Costa Rica
2010: France, Uruguay, Mexico, South Africa; Brazil, Portugal, Ivory Coast, North Korea
Here are some doomsday group scenarios for this edition:
- Brazil, Spain, Denmark, Nigeria
- Germany, Colombia, Sweden, Japan
- France, Uruguay, Costa Rica, Serbia
- Argentina, England, Egypt, Panama
While these potential groups above are strong and balanced, I don't think they match up to the caliber of the group of deaths from the past, especially in 2014, which is probably why FIFA made the changes needed to balance out the groups. My take: If you want further balance, then take out the host team from the top pot and seed them based on ranking.
Wait, how come I don't see teams like Italy and Netherlands in there?
For the first time since 1958, the. They were bounced in the UEFA playoff stage against Sweden. Other notable countries that failed to make it to the dance include the Netherlands (which hold the record for most World Cup finals appearances without winning the tourney), , (defending Gold Cup champs), Cameroon (defending Africa Cup of Nations champs) and Ghana (snapping a streak of three straight World Cup appearances dating back to 2006).
Those are good teams. They should hold an NIT-like tourney over the summer
I know, right? These teams will have plenty of free time during the summer, and it appears as if that might come to fruition.:
U.S. Soccer is reportedly considering a tournament next summer for big nations who didn't qualify for the 2018 World Cup. Sources have confirmed to CBS Sports that U.S. Soccer, along with Soccer United Marketing, are exploring the possibility of hosting a tournament with teams like Italy, Netherlands, Ghana and Chile.
OK, back to the real World Cup. So who are the favorites?
Well, if you go by the FIFA World Rankings, just about everyone in Pot 1 has a shot. But I won't go by that measurement.with Brazil and Germany in his top two. To me, there are about five teams that could win this thing. Here are my contenders:
Title contenders: Germany, Brazil, France, Spain
Fringe contenders: Argentina, Belgium, England, Portugal, Uruguay
Sorry ... no love for Poland, Switzerland, Mexico and Colombia from this scribe. They're contenders to advance out of the group stage, and maybe win a game in the knockout round, but that's about it. Expect some teams from Pot 3 or 4 to make a surprise appearance into the knockout rounds, but in no way shape or form should they be considered contenders.
OK, now that I understand how all this works, can you point me to the best draw simulators?
You're welcome. Now go on and enjoy your day.