By Anna Goorevich || Layout Assistant
Last Friday morning, all eyes were on Russia. However, at the same time as US investigations into Russia for influence in the 2016 election, the highly anticipated World Cup draw was taking place in Moscow, thereby determining the World Cup groups that the qualified teams will play in this summer.
For each World Cup, the teams are divided into eight groups of four, wherein round-robin play takes place. After the teams play the others in their group, the top two teams in each group will move on to the round of 16, where single-game elimination rounds begin.
Understandably so, the day of the draw causes anxiety for teams and fans around the world, as everyone wants to be placed in a favorable group to help ensure advancement to the next rounds during the tournament.
As an overview of how the groups are chosen, the 32 teams are separated into four pots based on their FIFA rankings. Next, one team is randomly chosen from each pot. The four teams chosen make up the group.
After the groups were determined on Friday, soccer analysts around the world went into a frenzy to try to predict what teams will move on to the elimination rounds. While no one knows exactly what will happen this summer at the World Cup, the group draw allows insight into what teams are favored over others.
Now to the analysis: Group A consists of hosts Russia, Uruguay, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. While the Luis Suarez-led Uruguay are favorites to top this group, it will be fascinating to see which team will also move on. As hosts of the tournament, playing at home may give Russia an advantage. However, Egypt appears to be gaining strength, especially due to Mohamed Salah’s impressive season so far at Liverpool FC.
Portugal, Spain, Iran, and Morocco, make up Group B. Spain and Portugal are the favorites to move on, with both teams stacked with globally-renowned players such as Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Spain’s Sergio Ramos. However, anything can happen at the World Cup and we can’t ignore the possibility of underdogs Iran or Morocco possibly getting ahead of Spain or Portugal.
Group C is made up of France, Denmark, Peru, and Australia. France is the dominant team with a squad full of young, vibrant players. It will be an interesting battle between the other three teams to move on to the next round.
Probably one of the toughest groups is Group D which consists of Argentina, Croatia, Iceland, and Nigeria. While Messi’s Argentina is a natural favorite, they had a difficult qualifying campaign which exposes some doubts. Underdogs Iceland will come into the tournament hoping to make an impact on their first ever World Cup. However, both Croatia and Nigeria are strong teams that can also compete with Argentina.
Group E is dominated by tournament favorites Brazil. They are joined by Switzerland, Costa Rica, and Serbia. This group will seemingly consist of a battle for second place.
Germany, the World Cup champions in 2014, top the list in Group F, which also consists of Mexico, Sweden, and South Korea. Germany are favorites again to win the tournament, so it will definitely be a battle for the other three teams to compete for a spot in the round of 16.
Group G is another well balanced group. Belgium and England are the two higher ranked groups and they’ll compete against Tunisia and Panama. While we cannot count any team out, Belgium and England will expect to see themselves in the round of 16.
Lastly, Group H is a relatively even group that doesn’t necessarily have an outright favorite. It will be intriguing to watch Colombia, Poland, Senegal, and Japan compete for the spots in the round of 16.
While in the soccer world there are always going to be teams more dominant than others, every World Cup brings a new round of surprises which ensures that no team can be overlooked. In the World Cup, truly anything can happen.
First-year Anna Goorevich is a layout assistant. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.