The draw has tossed up some interesting combinations. Portugal and Spain are the obvious favourites to come out of Group B but Iran and Morocco are sides that can spring up surprises. Morocco’s presence in the World Cup itself could be taken as a surprise. Defending champions Germany, if they retain their opponent-shaming form that they showed in the Confederations Cup and the previous World Cup, will not be facing too many problems in Group F. England have no Italy or Uruguay in their group this time but there is Belgium. And knowing England, their fans won’t be too relaxed about them facing Tunisia or even World Cup debutants Panama.
Live updates of FIFA World Cup 2018 Final draw:
2133 hrs IST: A draw that has produced a rather balanced set of groups. The standout fixture remains Portugal vs Sweden. Panama’s first ever match in a FIFA World Cup will be against Belgium. The opening match of the tournament will be between Russia and Saudi Arabia and defending champions Germany will play Mexico. Iceland, who are, as mentioned earlier the smallest nation to take part in the World Cup in terms of the population (More volcanoes than footballers, says Gary Lineker) have been given a gigantic challenge of facing Argentina in the opening match.
2127 hrs IST: These are the opening matches:
Russia vs Saudi Arabia, Uruguay vs Egypt
Portugal vs Spain, Iran vs Morocco
France vs Australia, Peru vs Denmark
Argentina vs Iceland, Croatia vs Nigeria
Brazil vs Switzerland, Costa Rica vs Serbia
Germany vs Mexico, Sweden vs South Korea
Belgium vs Panama, England vs Tunisia
Poland vs Senegal, Colombia vs Japan
2125 hrs IST: This is how the groups line up:
Group A Russia, Uruguay, Egypt, Saudi Arabia
Group B Portugal, Spain, Iran, Morocco
Group C France, Peru, Denmark, Australia
Group D Argentina, Croatia, Iceland, Nigeria
Group E Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Serbia
Group F Germany, Mexico, Sweden, South Korea
Group G Belgium, England, Tunisia, Panama
Group H Poland, Colombia, Senegal, Japan
2122 hrs IST: France’s first game in 2018 will be against Australia who made it to the World Cup after a thrilling win against Syria, currently without a manager
2119 hrs IST: This is how things stand:
Group A Russia, Uruguay, Egypt
Group B Portugal, Spain, Iran
Group C France, Peru, Denmark
Group D Argentina, Croatia, Iceland
Group E Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rica
Group F Germany, Mexico, Sweden
Group G Belgium, England, Tunisia
Group H Poland, Colombia, Senegal
2115 hrs IST: Iran, the first Asian team to qualify for Russia, placed in Group B with Portugal and Spain. Iceland, on the other hand, will be playing Argentina. How about that.
2113 hrs IST: Defending champions Germany will be playing their first match against Mexico while England and Belgium are in the same group
2108 hrs IST: Spain’s opening match will be against Portugal. Spain have been placed second in Group B and Portugal are top.
2105 hrs IST: All the top ranked teams and hosts have smoothly fallen into their places at the top of the six groups. Now comes the interesting part
2058 hrs IST: And after these gentlemen take their places, out come the draw hosts Gary Lineker and Russian commentator Maria Komandnaya
2055 hrs IST: The draw assistants for the evening: Nikita Simonyan (91-year-old former USSR striker who played at the 1958 World Cup), Gordon Banks (World Cup-winner with England in 1966), Diego Maradona, Laurent Blanc, Cafu, Fabio Cannavaro, Carles Puyol and Diego Forlán
2045 hrs IST: Miroslav Klose brings out the World Cup trophy. In the last edition of the tournament, Klose surpassed Brazil’s Ronaldo’s record of 15 goals in the tournament. He announced his retirement from international football a month after the tournament.
2036 hrs IST: Former England striker Alan Shearer says in a television discussion that it won’t be hard for England to surpass what they did in the last edition. Truer words have rarely been spoken
2032 hrs IST: The draw is underway in Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin and FIFA president Gianni Infantino addressing those assembled at the State Kremlin Palace Concert hall
2011 hrs IST: Star-spotting Part 2:
— Cafu. (@officialcafu) 1 December 2017
2003 hrs IST: Star-spotting
1935 hrs IST: First up, a crash course on how the draw works; The 32 teams that have booked a place in the 2018 FIFA World Cup finals will be split into eight groups featuring a team from each Pot. There are four such Pots in which all the teams are currently placed according to their FIFA rankings. Russia, as the hosts, along with defending champions Germany, Brazil, Portugal, Argentina, Belgium, Poland and France come in as the highest ranked teams in the draw.
Russia will get the top spot in Group A (A1) and the other subsequent top seeds will take up the top spots of subsequent groups. The remaining positions are the ones that will be decided in the draw. And of course, not more than two teams from the same continent will play in the same group, so there is very little chance that we will not have an Argentina vs Brazil in the group stage itself, unlike the ICC World Cup in which we always see an India vs Pakistan in the group stage. Confused? You can read more here.