Friday may have been a bittersweet day for fans in the United States, Italy, Chile or the Netherlands, but the FIFA World Cup moves on with or without them and only bring on the 32 best. The World Cup draw has concluded and now we begin six months of overanalyzing each group in the buildup to the World Cup this June.
With FIFA’s new way of placing teams in pots by FIFA ranking, it was supposed to make all eight groups as even as possible across the board and avoid anyone getting into the “Group of Death.” That didn’t exactly happen because we have a couple highly difficult groups, a couple highly easy groups and half the tournament is somewhere in between.
Groups of Death
Portugal – 1,165 miles of travel in Group Stage
Spain – 2,063 miles
Morocco – 1,073 miles
Iran – 933 miles
On the surface, this seems like an easy group to analyze. Portugal and Spain are going to dominate and their opening game on the second day of the tournament will determine who wins the group. But it’s not that easy. Morocco and Iran, despite not having the name value as their European counterparts, dominated World Cup Qualifying in Africa and Asia respectively.
Morocco qualified rather easily in Africa, going unbeaten and not even allowing a goal in the final round of qualification, going 11-0 and eliminating African powerhouse Ivory Coast. Iran was unbeaten in World Cup Qualifying with an unbeaten 12-6-0 record and a 36-5 goal differential. This isn’t going to be easy by any stretch.
Germany – 1,787 miles of travel in Group Stage
Mexico – 1,699 miles
Sweden – 2,188 miles
South Korea – 1,369 miles
The group with the World Cup champs is always going to be a tough group. And while many expect Germany to advance, it’s going to be rather tough on the other three teams to get that final spot. Mexico, Sweden and South Korea are all but capable of finishing second but if getting there wasn’t difficult enough, they will likely be rewarded with Brazil in the Round of 16 so these teams will be going on an uphill climb.
Groups of Life
Russia – 1,277 miles of travel in Group Stage
Saudi Arabia – 889 miles
Egypt – 2,068 miles
Uruguay – 1,726 miles
This group is wide open. While some may call this a “Group of Death” because it is so open, every team in this group has to be breathing a sigh of relief to be in here. Russia and Saudi Arabia are the two lowest-ranked teams in the tournament and as host, Russia was in Pot 1. So everyone was hoping to get Russia but even Uruguay, as the highest-ranked team, is beatable. This group may not have the best collection of talent but it’ll be the most unpredictable and most fun.
Poland – 974 miles of travel in Group Stage
Senegal – 1,361 miles
Colombia – 376 miles
Japan – 1,504 miles
If the entire nation of Colombia isn’t on their knees thanking God right now that they are in this group, they have to. Because not only did they get one of the easiest groups in recent World Cup history, they luck out in having to travel far less than every team in the Group Stage, traveling 400 miles less than the next team in Denmark. But while Colombia is the favorite, all teams here have a great chance at advancing.
France – 1328 miles of travel in Group Stage
Australia – 1006 miles
Peru – 1921 miles
Denmark – 751 miles
Argentina – 803 miles of travel in Group Stage
Iceland – 861 miles
Croatia – 1,574 miles
Nigeria – 2,065 miles
Brazil – 1,351 miles of travel in Group Stage
Switzerland – 1,902 miles
Costa Rica – 1,386 miles
Serbia – 1,885 miles
Belgium – 1,525 miles of travel in Group Stage
Panama – 1,050 miles
Tunisia – 887 miles
England – 1,447 miles
These four groups probably won’t be as straightforward was we expect them to but they are placed in the middle between those tough and easy groups. Some felt maybe Group C could be considered a “Group of Death” because France, Peru and Denmark are all ranked 8, 11 and 12 but I don’t necessarily rate Peru and Denmark as highly as FIFA does so that may look tougher on paper than it actually is.
While some heavy hitters aren’t in the World Cup this year, that won’t stop it from having so many compelling storylines that will keep people captivated for an entire summer month. The World Cup runs from June 14 to July 15 and will feature Russia vs. Saudi Arabia as the opening match.
[Photo: Getty Images]