The World Cup 2018 draw has been done and it leaves most of the big sides feeling fairly happy, although hosts Russia could be concerned
Group A: Russia (hosts), Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Uruguay
The hosts should have it easy, at least in the opening game. Then it will be a fight between Egypt and Uruguay. A risky one, of course, for Russia, as both other teams have shown quality and solidity. Difficult to see Saudi Arabia get any points, and wouldn’t be a surprise to see Russia crash out. One of the most unpredictable groups.
PREDICTION: 1) Uruguay 2) Russia 3) Egypt 4) Saudi Arabia
Group B: Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Iran
Two giants and two minnows. This is Group B in a nutshell. Offering a potential final in terms of quality and prestige, and games with quite a predictable ending. Portugal and Spain should hammer the other two and then face off for the top spot. Morocco and Iran will try their luck and perhaps cause what would be one of the biggest upsets in this competition.
PREDICTION: 1) Spain 2) Portugal 3) Morocco 4) Iran
Group C: France, Australia, Peru, Denmark
Out of the favourites, the French have been the luckiest, without any doubt. Unthinkable for the 1998 winners not to top this group, even though Peru and Denmark are decent sides. They will battle for second place, and the direct game will be decisive. Peru’s determination could give them the edge over Denmark. Australia will try and get in between the giants and without any pressure perhaps grab that second spot.
PREDICTION: 1) France 2) Peru 3) Denmark 4) Australia
Group D: Argentina, Iceland, Croatia, Nigeria
If France are the luckiest, Argentina is the least fortunate. Croatia boast one of the best midfielders in the world, with arguably the best in his position in Luka Modric, Nigeria have quality and solidity, and Iceland would give everything to go through. It will be tough for Lionel Messi and co, but Argentina should make it through. Behind them, difficult not to see Croatia, but Iceland are ready to give another upset to the world after knocking out England in Euro 2016.
PREDICTION: 1) Argentina 2) Croatia 3) Iceland 4) Nigeria
Group E: Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Serbia
The most impressive team of the qualifiers are out to forget the 1-7 loss to Germany in their World Cup. Brazil could easily top the group with nine points, and behind Neymar it will be a clash between Switzerland and Serbia, who have the talent to be one of the biggest surprises in the whole competition. Tough to see Costa Rica go through, but they seemed to have no chance last time round and knocked out Italy and England.
PREDICTION: 1) Brazil 2) Serbia 3) Switzerland 4) Costa Rica
Group F: Germany, Mexico, Sweden, South Korea
Simply unstoppable, at least on paper. Germany are the best side on the planet and have immense squad depth. Would be unbelievable to see them get knocked out before the semifinals. The other team to come out of Group F is truly impossible to predict, with Mexico perhaps having a bit more talent than the other two.
PREDICTION: 1) Germany 2) Mexico 3) Sweden 4) South Korea
Group G: Belgium, Panama, Tunisia, England
Belgium and England are in a category of their own, with two of the weakest teams in the whole World Cup. Many Belgians play in the Premier League, and it will be a very interesting reunion in Russia. The talent of the Devils could be too much for England, who boast one of the best strikers in Harry Kane. Behind them, Panama should be able to grab the third spot.
PREDICTION: 1) Belgium 2) England 3) Panama 4) Tunisia
Group H: Poland, Senegal, Colombia, Japan
Probably the most unpredictable group, with four teams that aren’t too distant in terms of overall strength. Of course, Colombia – the big surprise at the last World Cup – are the best side and have some immensely talented players in James Rodriguez, Radamel Falcao and Juan Cuadrado. They should be able to top the group, with Robert Lewandowski’s Poland – another one to have a careful look on – a close second. Senegal and Japan could entertain and will face off for the third spot.
PREDICTION: 1) Colombia 2) Poland 3) Senegal 4) Japan