Hello and welcome to the India.com’s Liveblog of 2018 FIFA World Cup 2017 Final draw. The final round of the draw will take place at Moscow on December 1 and it will start at 8:30 pm IST. With all the 32 nations who have qualified for 2018 World Cup, excitement is building ahead of the final round of the draw.
It’s been three and a half years since the last World Cup, and after a long wait we’re tantalizingly close. Now we have something real to look at until the summer after the teams that made the tournament were drawn into their groups today:
If you’re looking for the U.S., you’ll find them in the Group of the Dead, hopefully sitting their asses at home and not at some dumb and insane World Crap. Just to rub things in, though, because the seedings were based on FIFA World Rankings, we know that had the USMNT qualified, they’d have gone into Group G for rematches with Belgium and England.
Too bad. But hey, it’s still the World Cup! It’ll be fun!
List of FIFA World Cup 2018 Groups
FIFA World Cup 2018 Group A
Pedigree: Stanislav Cherchesov’s side will be the fourth Russia team to play at a World Cup – they first appeared at USA 94 – although the Soviet Union finished fourth in 1966.
Key player: Veteran goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev has won more than 100 caps and his experience could be vital. The 31-year-old, who has spent his entire career at CSKA Moscow, is likely to captain the hosts.
Pedigree: Saudi Arabia’s only victories at a World Cup came in their first appearance in 1994, when they won two group matches and reached the second round. Their second win – 1-0 against Belgium – featured one of the greatest goals of all time when forward Saeed Al Owairan ran from his own half and beat half the Belgian defence to score.
Key player: Yahya Al Shehri, a 27-year-old winger, has been at the centre of the national team’s rejuvenation since making his debut as a teenager. He became the most expensive Saudi footballer in 2013 when he moved from Ettifaq to Al-Nassr for £9.6m.
Pedigree: Egypt are currently 30th in Fifa’s world rankings – one place below the Netherlands. Having missed out on the 2010 and 2014 competitions after play-off defeats, they qualified for Russia when Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah scored an injury-time winner against Congo on 8 October. Their last notable success at a major tournament was in 2010, when they lifted the Africa Cup of Nations for the seventh time.
Key player: Mohamed Salah, Liverpool’s major summer signing, is Egypt’s most talented player. The speedy forward has scored 32 goals in 56 international appearances, including five during qualifying for Russia.
Pedigree: Uruguay won the first World Cup in 1930 and then again in 1950, but they only reached the last 16 at Brazil 2014.
Key player: Luis Suarez. Barcelona forward Suarez is the country’s record goalscorer and scored twice in their last qualifier against Bolivia to secure their qualification.
FIFA World Cup 2018 Group B
Pedigree: Portugal are the reigning European champions, having beaten hosts France 1-0 in the final of Euro 2016. Their best performance at a World Cup came when they finished third in 1966 and they also reached the semi-finals in 2006 yet failed to make it out of the group phase in Brazil in 2014.
Key player: Who else? Cristiano Ronaldo. He has been voted the best player in the world four times, he is the country’s most capped player and also their record goalscorer. The Real Madrid forward, a four-time Champions League winner, scored 15 goals for Portugal during their World Cup qualification campaign.
Pedigree: Currently ranked 11th in the world. They held the number one spot from 2008 until 2013. Spain were world champions in 2010, as well as European champions in 2008 and 2012.
Key player: Real Madrid attacking midfielder Isco has been in fine form during qualifying, with six goals and an assist in Spain’s past seven matches. He has seven goals in 23 appearances in his international career.
Pedigree: Morocco will be making their first appearance at a World Cup finals in 20 years next summer. In 1998 in France, a win, a draw and a defeat was not enough for them to qualify from the group stage. They have managed this feat just once in four attempts at finals, in Mexico in 1986 when they reached the last 16, where they were beaten 1-0 by eventual runners-up West Germany.
Key player: He has not been a regular with club side Juventus this season (there is some stiff competition there at the back) but defender Medhi Benatia is extremely highly rated at the Italian champions, who signed him on a permanent deal from Bayern Munich this year following a successful loan spell. The 30-year-old is Morocco’s captain and has 52 caps to his name, five of which came during a 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign in which they did not concede a goal. He also scored one of the goals in the 2-0 win over Ivory Coast that sealed their place in Russia.
Pedigree: This is the fifth time Iran have qualified for a World Cup, but their only victory in the tournament remains a 2-1 win over the United States at France 98.
Key player: Striker Sardar Azmoun is arguably Asia’s best striker since his compatriot Ali Daei, who scored more international goals than any other male player. The 22-year-old Azmoun is strong with both feet, and in the air, and plays his club football for Russian side Rubin Kazan.
FIFA World Cup 2018 Group C
Pedigree: France won the World Cup when they hosted the tournament in 1998 and also reached the final eight years later, losing on penalties to Italy. They reached the quarter-finals in Brazil in 2014 and were runners-up as hosts at Euro 2016.
Key player: Antoine Griezmann. The Atletico Madrid striker was the top scorer with six goals as France reached the Euro 2016 final and scored the second as France beat Belarus 2-1 to secure their qualification on 10 October.
Pedigree: This will be the fourth consecutive World Cup appearance and a fifth overall for Australia. Their best performance came in 2006 when they went out in the last 16, losing 1-0 to eventual champions Italy through a 95th-minute Francesco Totti penalty.
Key player: Tim Cahill may be 37 years old but he continues to be his country’s talisman. The former Everton midfielder has scored 11 times during qualification, including the two decisive goals in Australia’s second-leg victory over Syria.
Pedigree: The 32nd and last team to qualify, Peru are heading to their fifth World Cup after goals from Jefferson Farfan and Christian Ramos gave them a 2-0 win over New Zealand in the play-offs. Their best result came in 1970, when they finished seventh, and the last World Cup they qualified for was in 1982. They’re 10th in the Fifa rankings.
Key player: Farfan, who plays for Lokomotiv Moscow, has made 79 appearances for Peru, scoring 23 goals. The 33-year-old is known for his speed and scored three goals in four matches during qualifying.
Pedigree: This is the fifth time Denmark have qualified for the tournament and the first since 2010, when they went out in the group stages. Their best performance was in 1998, when they reached the quarter-finals before being knocked out by Brazil.
Key player: All of Denmark’s best play goes through Tottenham midfielder Christian Eriksen. Not only does he set up strikes for his team-mates, the former Ajax player has chipped in with 18 goals from 74 caps.
FIFA World Cup 2018 Group D
Pedigree: Argentina have won the World Cup twice – in 1978 and 1986 – and been runners-up on three occasions, in 1930, 1990 and in Brazil in 2014, when they lost 1-0 to Germany in the final.
Key player: Lionel Messi. Messi, who has been voted the best player in the world on five occasions, scored the hat-trick in the last round of South American Qualifying against Ecuador to take Argentina to the finals.
Pedigree: Iceland are heading to their first World Cup after victory over Kosovo on 9 October secured their place in Russia. This is clearly a golden era for the Icelanders after they reached Euro 2016, where they memorably defeated England in their second-round tie before losing 5-2 against hosts France in the quarter-finals.
Key player: It is difficult to look beyond Everton’s Gylfi Sigurdsson. The 28-year-old midfielder scored the opening goal against Kosovo and is a superb striker of the ball from long range.
Pedigree: Croatia gained admission to Fifa in June 1993, meaning they were too late to compete for a place at the finals in the United States in 1994. However, they qualified for a finals at the first time of asking at France 98 and have reached all but one of the five summer tournaments since. Their best performance to date remains their first, when Davor Suker, Zvonimir Boban et al helped them to a third place finish after losing to hosts and eventual winners France in the semis.
Key player: Luka Modric – once of Tottenham, now at Real Madrid – is the creative force at the heart of the Croatia side. Blessed with superb touch and vision, the 32-year-old has won the Champions League three times with his current club. He recently clocked up a century for his country, for whom he has scored 12 times.
Pedigree: This will be Nigeria’s sixth appearance at a World Cup – and their third in a row. They have reached the last 16 three times – 1994, 1998 and 2014 – but have never advanced beyond that stage.
Key player: Captain John Mikel Obi, the most experienced member of the squad with 80 caps, will be a key figure for the Super Eagles in Russia. This will be the former Chelsea midfielder’s second World Cup – the 30-year-old helped the team reach the knockout stages in 2014 for the first time since 1998. He now plays in China with Tianjin Teda.
FIFA World Cup 2018 Group E
Pedigree: Winners in 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002, Brazil were beaten 7-1 at the semi-final stage by Germany in the World Cup they hosted four years ago.
Key player: Neymar. The £200m forward is averaging a goal and an assist per game since his world-record move to Paris St-Germain. Brazil legend Pele says the 25-year-old is the country’s best player and has backed him to win the Ballon d’Or.
Pedigree: This is Switzerland’s 11th World Cup, having reached the quarter-finals three times – including when they hosted the tournament in 1954. They lost to eventual finalists Argentina in extra time in the last 16 in 2014.
Key player: Xherdan Shaqiri. The talented Stoke City playmaker has scored 20 goals for his country, including a hat-trick against Honduras at the last World Cup.
Pedigree: Russia 2018 will be the fifth time Los Ticos have appeared at a World Cup finals. Last time out in Brazil, they finished top of a group containing Uruguay, Italy, and bottom-placed England, before going out in the quarter-finals on penalties to the Netherlands.
Key player: Bologna defender Giancarlo Gonzalez made the BBC pundits’ team of the tournament in 2014, but the man on whom Costa Rica’s recent success is built is Keylor Navas. The 30-year-old goalkeeper’s performances at the last World Cup earned him a move to Real Madrid. Since then he has established himself as the number one there, winning one Spanish league title and two Champions Leagues.
Pedigree: Russia will be Serbia’s 12th appearance at the World Cup – they did not get beyond the group stage in 2006 and 2010.
Key player: Branislav Ivanovic is closing in on his 100th cap and remains a key player for Serbia. He is their captain and leader. “We look forward to playing for you in Russia”, he said in an address to the fans on the pitch after they secured qualification.
FIFA World Cup 2018 Group F
Pedigree: The defending champions, four-time winners and number one team in the world.
Key player: Toni Kroos. Apart from Thomas Muller and Mesut Ozil, the Real Madrid midfielder is the most experienced player in the squad and keeps things ticking over. Since helping Germany win the 2014 World Cup, he has won two Champions League titles, one La Liga title and two Fifa Club World Cup titles.
Pedigree: Mexico have reached the knockout stage in each of the past six World Cups, and made the quarter-finals as hosts in 1986.
Key player: Hirving Lozano has scored three goals in three games since leaving Pachuca for PSV Eindhoven this summer, and the 22-year-old is also becoming the star of the national team, netting Mexico’s winner against Panama.
‘Chucky’ even impressed Argentina legend Diego Maradona on his Eredivisie debut, and the Philips Stadion crowd gave the winger a standing ovation following his first goal for PSV.
Pedigree: Russia 2018 will be Sweden’s 12th World Cup finals appearance, but their first since 2006. They reached the final in 1958, losing to Brazil, and finished third in 1994.
Key player: Replacing Zlatan Ibrahimovic was never going to be an easy task, but Al Ain striker Marcus Berg scored eight times in 10 qualifying matches as Sweden finished runners-up to France before beating Italy in the play-offs.
Pedigree: No Asian team has a better World Cup pedigree than the side nicknamed the Taegeuk Warriors. South Korea’s goalless draw against Uzbekistan secured a place at a 10th finals and the tournament in Russia will be the ninth World Cup in a row in which they have featured.
Key player: Son Heung-min has showcased his trickery at Tottenham and is the stand-out name on the team sheet. He has managed just one international goal since the start of 2016 however, as the side have struggled in front of goal. And keep an eye out for Lee Dong-gook who came on as a substitute in their final qualifier and will be 39 by the time the World Cup comes around. The former Middlesbrough striker boasts 105 caps spanning 19 years.
FIFA World Cup 2018 Group G
Pedigree: Having failed to qualify for the previous two tournaments, Belgium reached the quarter-finals at Brazil 2014, losing to eventual runners-up Argentina. The Red Devils’ best finish was fourth in 1986.
Key player: Eden Hazard. The twinkle-toed Chelsea forward unlocks defences with his rapid change of pace, close control and eye for a pass. He also wears the captain’s armband for Roberto Martinez’s side.
Pedigree: None. Panama reached their first World Cup finals with a victory over Costa Rica that took advantage of the United States’ defeat by Trinidad & Tobago. They were runners-up at Concacaf’s Gold Cup in 2013.
Key player: Roman Torres, 31, is a central defender who plays for Seattle Sounders and whose composure and leadership will be vital if Panama are to have any chance of making an impression in Russia. His name has already been etched indelibly into Panama’s history after scoring the winning goal against Costa Rica that clinched their qualification.
Pedigree: Next summer will represent the first time Tunisia have appeared at a World Cup finals since the tournament in Germany in 2006, at which they failed to make it beyond the group stage. In three finals appearances prior to that – 1978, 1998 and 2002 – they failed to make the knockout rounds.
Key player: Centre-back Aymen Abdennour is an experienced and talented figure in Tunisia’s defence. Currently on loan at French club Marseille from Valencia, he has 57 international caps and has scored twice. Previously linked with moves to the Premier League with both Everton and Chelsea, the 28-year-old was recently reported to be on Watford’s radar.
Pedigree: Since their solitary World Cup success in 1966, England have reached the semi-finals only once – in 1990, when they finished fourth. In 2014, the Three Lions were knocked out in the group stage. That was the first time since 1958 they failed to get out of their group, and the only time they have been eliminated after just two matches.
Key player: With 13 goals for club and country in September, Harry Kane is one of the world’s most in-form strikers. His 27 goals in 2017 puts him only nine behind Lionel Messi.
FIFA World Cup 2018 Group H
Pedigree: Poland are ranked sixth in the world. They have never won the World Cup but many believe this is one of the country’s strongest squads. Their highest previous finish is third, which they achieved in 1974 and 1982.
Key player: Bayern Munich forward Robert Lewandowski has scored 16 goals in nine qualifying matches for Poland and is their all-time record goal-scorer. The skipper has scored 51 international goals in 91 games.
Pedigree: This is the first time Senegal have qualified for the World Cup since 2002 – and only the second time in history. In 2002, they reached the quarter finals where they were beaten 1-0 by Turkey.
Key player: Sadio Mane is the West African team’s most experienced player with 48 caps and 14 goals since his debut in 2012. In 2015 he set a new Premier League record for the fastest hat-trick after scoring three times in 176 seconds during a 6-1 Southampton win over Aston Villa. When he transferred to Liverpool in 2016, he became the most expensive African player in history at the time, for a fee of £34m.
Pedigree: Colombia produced their best ever performance at a World Cup in Brazil in 2014 when they reached the quarter-finals, before losing 2-1 to hosts Brazil.
Key player: James Rodriguez. The attacking midfielder, who is on loan at Bayern Munich from Real Madrid, won the Golden Boot in the 2014 World Cup, awarded to the top goalscorer in the competition. He scored six goals in that World Cup.
Pedigree: Mainstays in the competition since 1998, Japan have twice reached the second round, including in 2002 when they jointly hosted the tournament with South Korea.
Key player: Keisuke Honda, Shinji Kagawa and Leicester forward Shinji Okazaki will of course be key, but a young forward on the books at Arsenal could be leading the line come next summer.
Takuma Asano has already netted three times for his country and helped Stuttgart win promotion to the Bundesliga last season while on loan from the Gunners. Arsene Wenger has called the 22-year-old “a talented young striker and very much one for the future”.
Thursday, June 14: Russia v Saudi Arabia (Luzhniki)
Friday, June 15: Egypt v Uruguay (Ekaterinburg)
Friday, June 15: Morocco v Iran (St Petersburg)
Friday, June 15: Portugal v Spain (Sochi)
Saturday, June 16: France v Australia (Kazan)
Saturday, June 16: Argentina v Iceland (Spartak)
Saturday, June 16: Peru v Denmark (Saransk)
Saturday, June 16: Croatia v Nigeria (Kaliningrad)
Sunday, June 17: Costa Rica v Serbia (Samara)
Sunday, June 17: Germany v Mexico (Luzhniki)
Sunday, June 17: Brazil v Switzerland (Rostov-on-Don)
Monday, June 18: Sweden v Korea Republic (Nizhny Novgorod)
Monday, June 18: Belgium v Panama (Sochi)
Monday, June 18: Tunisia v England (Volgograd)
Tuesday, June 19: Poland v Senegal (Spartak)
Tuesday, June 19: Colombia v Japan (Saransk)
Tuesday, June 19: Russia v Egypt (St Petersburg)
Wednesday, June 20: Portugal v Morocco (Luzhniki)
Wednesday, June 20: Uruguay v Saudi Arabia (Rostov-on-Don)
Wednesday, June 20: Iran v Spain (Kazan)
Thursday, June 21: France v Peru (Ekaterinburg)
Thursday, June 21: Denmark v Australia (Samara)
Thursday, June 21: Argentina v Croatia (Nizhny Novgorod)
Friday, June 22: Brazil v Costa Rica (St Petersburg)
Friday, June 22: Nigeria v Iceland (Volgograd)
Friday, June 22: Serbia v Switzerland (Kaliningrad)
Saturday, June 23: Belgium v Tunisia (Spartak)
Saturday, June 23: Germany v Sweden (Sochi)
Saturday, June 23: Korea Republic v Mexico (Rostov-on-Don)
Sunday, June 24: England v Panama (Nizhny Novgorod)
Sunday, June 24: Japan v Senegal (Ekaterinburg)
Sunday, June 24: Poland v Colombia (Kazan)
Monday, June 25: Uruguay v Russia (Samara)
Monday, June 25: Saudi Arabia v Egypt (Volgograd)
Monday, June 25: Spain v Morocco (Kaliningrad)
Monday, June 25: Iran v Portugal (Saransk)
Tuesday, June 26: Denmark v France (Luzhniki)
Tuesday, June 26: Australia v Peru (Sochi)
Tuesday, June 26: Nigeria v Argentina (St Petersburg)
Tuesday, June 26: Iceland v Croatia (Rostov-on-Don)
Wednesday, June 27: Korea Republic v Germany (Kazan)
Wednesday, June 27: Mexico v Sweden (Ekaterinburg)
Wednesday, June 27: Serbia v Brazil (Spartak)
Wednesday, June 27: Switzerland v Costa Rica (Nizhny Novgorod)
Thursday, June 28: Japan v Poland (Volgograd)
Thursday, June 28: Senegal v Colombia (Samara)
Thursday, June 28: England v Belgium (Kaliningrad)
Thursday, June 28: Panama v Tunisia (Saransk)