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An early look at the eight World Cup groups

The draw for the 2018 World Cup presented us with plenty of mouth-watering showdowns between the giants of world soccer along with a handful of intriguing groups that could produce shocking results.

Group F featuring Germany, Mexico, Sweden and South Korea can be looked at as the most difficult on paper, but don’t sleep on Group D that includes Argentina, Iceland, Croatia and Nigeria.

Group B may not be the toughest, but it gives us one of the best games of the group stage between Spain and Portugal. Other group stage clashes include Belgium-England in Group G and Poland-Colombia in Group H.

Here’s an early look at how the eight groups will play out in six months time in Russia.

Group A

Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Uruguay

The opening match of the World Cup doesn’t scream excitement in the slightest with Russia playing Saudi Arabia, but the other game to open Group A between Egypt and Uruguay could go a long way in determining the group winner.

The host country will undoubtedly be playing with pride, but Russia’s talent might not be enough to keep up with Mo Salah and Egypt or Uruguay led by Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani.

Uruguay appears to be the favorite in Group A, with Russia and Egypt fighting it out for second place.

Prediction: 1. Uruguay, 2. Egypt, 3. Russia, 4. Saudi Arabia

Group B 

Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Iran

It’s going to be hard for anyone to pick against Portugal and Spain advancing to the knockout round, even if they have to play each other.

The first marquee clash of the World Cup will feature the Iberian nations in Sochi on June 15. Barring a breakdown later in the group phase, the winner of that game should finish first with the loser going into second.

Iran may have been a darkhorse in any other group given its terrific qualification record, but it may be doomed against the pair of European giants.

Prediction: 1. Portugal, 2. Spain, 3. Iran, 4. Morocco

Group C

France, Australia, Peru, Denmark

Led by Antoine Griezmann, Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe, France will enter Russia as one of the favorite to win the World Cup, and it has an easy path to the knockout round.

However, the race for second place could be one of the most intriguing storylines of the group phase.

Australia is looking to get out of the group for the first time since 2006, Denmark has made the round of 16 in three of the four World Cup its participated in and Peru is looking to make a splash in its first trip to the world’s largest competition since 1982.

Prediction: 1. France, 2. Peru, 3. Denmark, 4. Australia

Group D

Argentina, Iceland, Croatia, Nigeria

Both openers in Group D are enticing affairs with Argentina starting the quest for the crown jewel in Lionel Messi’s resume against upstart Iceland. Croatia and Nigeria are usually difficult outs in international tournaments, and starting on the front foot will be crucial in this tricky group.

Argentina has the superior talent to place first in Group D, but it will face an immense amount of pressure to succeed in Russia and cement Messi’s legacy.

Many fell in love with Iceland at Euro 2016, but will it provide the same performance on an even bigger stage? Croatia has only gotten out of the group stage once, and that was when it placed third at France in 1998. The squad led by Ivan Rakitic and Luka Modric will be looking for a breakthrough in a group that is wide open underneath Argentina.

Keep an eye on the Super Eagles with their wealth of Premier League talent and veteran John Obi Mikel patrolling the midfield.

Prediction: 1. Argentina, 2. Croatia, 3. Nigeria, 4. Iceland

Group E

Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Serbia

The Ticos have the best chance to advance to the knockout round of the three CONCACAF entrants, and they have no fear against the giants of the game as we saw in Brazil in 2014.

Switzerland and Serbia are also dangerous nations that could cause trouble for a Brazilian side ready to prove 2014 was just a fluke.

Based on talent alone, Brazil will win this group with ease, but the games have to be played out on the field.

Prediction: 1. Costa Rica, 2. Brazil, 3. Switzerland, 4. Serbia

Group F

Germany, Mexico, Sweden, South Korea

If you were to designate one group as the Group of Death, Group F would be easy to tag.

Germany and Sweden are no slouches out of UEFA, Mexico dominated the Hex in CONCACAF and South Korea has won a game in three of its last four World Cups.

Group F won’t lack in star power either with a superstar-laden German squad, Zlatan Ibrahimovic potentially being on the Sweden roster and Carlos Vela, Javier Hernandez and Giovani dos Santos leading Mexico.

The three giants of the group could easily beat up on each other with South Korea sliding into the role of spoiler throughout the group stage.

One has to think Germany’s quality will prevail, with the second-place team facing a difficult task to the final with Brazil lurking from Group E.

Prediction: 1. Germany, 2. Mexico, 3. Sweden, 4. South Korea

Group G 

Belgium, Panama, England, Tunisia

Belgium and England have everything set up for them to cruise into the knockout round, and they’ll both have an keen eye on Group H, where potential round of 16 opponents Poland and Colombia lie.

Tunisia is back in the World Cup for the first time since 2006, and it has never reached the knockout round, while Panama is making its first appearance in the competition.

The clash between Belgium and England on June 28 in Kaliningrad should be for first place in the group if everything goes to plan, but don’t count out the minnows in this group looking to make a splash.

Prediction: 1. Belgium, 2. England, 3. Tunisia, 4. Panama

Group H 

Poland, Colombia, Senegal, Japan

Poland has been waiting for its shining moment at the World Cup for a few years with Robert Lewandowski scoring at will. It will face a test against Colombia on June 24 in Kazan, but outside of that, it should take care of business against Senegal and Japan.

Colombia captured our hearts in 2014 with its run to the quarterfinals, and it possesses one of the most dynamic attacks in the tournament with James Rodriguez, Juan Cuadrado, Radamel Falcao and Carlos Bacca on the roster.

Senegal is led by Liverpool’s Sadio Mane, who could be one of the breakout stars of the tournament and he could be the X-factor that blows up the predicted results in Group H.

Japan has European-based talent strewn across its roster, but it’s had an up-and-down time at the World Cup in the past with two round of 16 appearances and three group stage exits in its last five World Cups.

Prediction: 1. Poland, 2. Colombia, 3. Senegal, 4. Japan


  1. i’m pretty sure that the top two teams from Europe that didn’t qualify are far better than (and i mean no disrespect) concacaf #3 every time.

    where’s Johnny razor?

    sorry quit, the soda comes out of my nose when i laugh too hard while i’m drinking it, like when someone says the usa is a traditional world cup power. but then he took it back.

  2. I think Costa Rico is a very good team and has a decent shot of advancing, but to put them above Brazil seems a little….are you from CR?

  3. my takeaway from this is that europe is allotted too few wc berths and concacaf has too many

    sorry i almost spit out my soda i think someone here just said the usa is a traditional wc power

    • Not “power” but top-half, yeah. When you make it out of Group three out of the last four, you’re usually finishing Top-16, which is indeed respectable, however much Eurosnob idiots would like to sneer at it.

      I would apply the same label – “respectable” – to nations like Ivory Coast and Ghana as well. They haven’t yet cracked the Top-8 yet either, but on the day they can beat an elite team…just like the USA can, and has.

      There are only a handful of true elites. (Maybe 6 right now.) Actually the only nation that’s been a true superpower of late that didn’t make the field is the Dutch. The Italians didn’t make it out of Group the last two World Cups, for all their prior history, and they looked miserable in qualifying this cycle too.

      The incessant self-flagellation of the USA – mostly among console commandos who haven’t played or coached – is seriously annoying.

      • The Shot heard ’round the world is a term used in reference to one of the most historic goals in American soccer history, which made the national team qualify to the 1990 FIFA World Cup after 36 years of being unable to qualify to the World Cup. This goal happened in the qualification game between United States and Trinidad and Tobago on November 19, 1989 in Port of Spain.

    • Completely disagree that UEFA should hve more teams. As Q says – there are a few certain superpowers; and each year there are a few nations with a special generation.

      I agree for the most part that teams 1-8 of UEFA are better than Mexico and Costa Rica. But teams 9-12 from the play-off I think most of the top tier teams from CONCACAF (Panama is a good story, but not a top tier team from CONCACAF), CAF and AFC will compete with. I don’t need to see Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and this year, even Italy, to make it a complete World Cup. I surely would like to watch the US lose 3 group games though.

  4. Given the Russian government’s penchant for arranging outcomes of major sporting events, I am bemused to find their team landed in easily the least talented group. Further, if I were a star on the Egypt team, in the days before the game with Russia, I’d be carefully looking over my shoulder and under the bed and I’d hire someone to taste all my food before I ate it.

  5. How did groups E and F get so overloaded with talent? And does that mean the 1st- and 2nd place teams in them will face each other much too early?

    Why did the compiler of this piece say “Brazil will win this group with ease” but then rank
    Costa Rica first? Hello?

    Did anyone hear Maradona’s comment at the draw — WTTE that Argentina is bad and has to improve a lot even though they have an ‘accessible’ group? Does he think that’s encouraging to Messi and Agüero? Is his ugly hair dye affecting his brain?

    Why did Russia get such an easy group? Is it possible to influence the drawing of lots when the little plastic soccer balls are prepared inside the Kremlin, and Maradona, who evidently supports Marxist regimes in Latin America, is involved?

  6. Italy, Chile, United States, and Ghana would have been the group of death at almost any world cup in recent history…


  7. Costa Rica over Brazil? Laughable. Then assuming Mexico finishes ahead of Sweden? I think El Tri will crash out in the first round. Sweden eliminated Italy from the World Cup, bringing Zlatan back will make them stronger and solid contenders. They finish second to Germany. Panama will finish last of all WC teams, with plenty of goals against.

  8. I think it’s really cool that group b has teams from three countries that are so close together geographically. I wonder if that’s ever happened before.

  9. No Love for Iceland here… Iceland finished above Croatia in their world cup qualification group (They split games). And they can definitely take on Nigeria

    • I agree! Just bought my Iceland shirt today! A country of 330,000 made it in a tough qualifying group. US country of 340,000,000 couldn’t qualify in a weak group. Sad. So I’m pulling for them (used to have an Icelandic team mate too).

  10. Wow, new pots seemed to make things a little more even. Group F is really the only group approaching Group of Death status and even that’s not the same as what we faced in 2014 Portugal> Sweden, Ghana>S.Korea. Nothing like that England, Italy, Costa Rica, Uruaguay group from last WC too.

    • Also a much weaker field in general.

      No Chile. No Italy. No USA. No Netherlands. No Ghana or Ivory Coast.

      That’s the winner of the last two Copa Americas, two European superpowers, the winner of the last Gold Cup, and the two biggest African powers, not there.

      The groups look weaker because a lot of teams that you’d expect to be there inexplicably washed out this time. This is by far the weakest field in 20+ years, easily, IMHO.

      • True. Sad we won’t be watching so many traditional powers next year. Just can’t get fired up for watching games like Senegal v Poland or Panama v Tunisia. Seems most years there were group stage matchups that were most sees. Certainly Spain v Portugal and Germany v Mexico and Belgium v England are must see for me but I just can’t see the need to DVR the others like in years past such as that England v Italy game last WC or waking up in the middle of the night like in 2002 to watch that stacked Brazil team.

      • not a weaker field. The teams that didn’t qualify don’t deserve to be in this world cup. They were beaten out by better teams.

  11. Russia will go through because it is very rare for a host nation not to and they have an easy group, so they;’ll finish 2nd despite a fairly weak squad. Group E is all wrong here. No way Costa Rica beats out Brazil. I think CR might not make it through; I see Brazil and Serbia finishing 1 and 2 and CR may have trouble finishing ahead of Switzerland. As for Group H, I’m not convinced that Poland is that strong outside of Lewandowski. I like Colombia, Japan, and then Poland.


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