By Andrew Warshaw
December 4 – The joke buzzing around social media after last Friday’s evenly balanced World Cup draw was that there IS actually a Group of Death: Netherlands, Italy, Chile and the United States.
They, of course, are the nations who will be conspicuous by their absence in Russia having failed to qualify and will be kicking themselves all the way through to next summer.
As for the draw itself, not surprisingly but with little justification, cries of “fix” fizzed round the internet when hosts Russia, ranked 65 in the world, were handed by far the easiest draw though the likes of England can hardly complain when, not for the first time, they too were given what appears on paper to be a comparatively trouble-free passage into the knockout stage.
There are, of course, some mouth-watering individual ties, none more so than the Iberian clash between Spain and Portugal in Group B while Argentina, Iceland, Croatia, and Nigeria would appear to be the most evenly matched group as a whole.
The tournament kicks off with Russia playing Saudi Arabia in Moscow on June 14 and Russian president Vladimir Putin, who many will remember changing his mind tactically and flying into Zurich at the last minute for the 2018 and 2022 ballot seven years ago, promised: “We will do everything to make this a major sporting festival and bring closer together this great football family which believes in sport, friendship and fairplay – values that do not change with time. They are eternal.”
Group A: Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Uruguay.
Group B: Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Iran.
Group C: France, Australia, Peru, Denmark.
Group D: Argentina, Iceland, Croatia, Nigeria.
Group E: Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Serbia.
Group F: Germany, Mexico, Sweden, South Korea.
Group G: Belgium, Panama, Tunisia, England.
Group H: Poland, Senegal, Colombia, Japan.
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