By Jazmin Avila Contributor
With the World Cup drawing closer, FIFA held its ceremonial group draw on Dec. 1, revealing which qualifying teams will face come June.
Immediately after the tournament’s eight groups were placed, soccer enthusiasts began to speculate which teams would advance out of each group and onto the knockout stage.
Everyone has varying opinions, so let’s take a look at the groups:
Group A: Russia, Uruguay, Egypt, Saudi Arabia
Uruguay is the strongest team in this group. They should be able to easily finish at the top as they have the most talented team overall. Second place could go to any of the other three teams, but it will be interesting to see how Russia fairs as they play in front of their home fans.
Group B: Portugal, Spain, Iran, Morocco
Portugal and Spain are the clear choices to finish top of their group. Spain did not advance past the group stage in the 2014 World Cup, but their squad is still constructed around world-class players, which keeps them in the running. Nonetheless, Portugal seems to be the favorite to top this group, having won the 2016 UEFA European Championship.
Group C: France, Peru, Denmark, Australia
The obvious choice here is France, the 2016 UEFA Euro runner-up. They had a good World Cup last time around, making it all the way to the quarter finals. Second place in this group is up in the air between the other three teams, but Peru should be a team to watch out for as they qualified against all odds from a strong pool of South American teams.
Group D: Argentina, Croatia, Iceland, Nigeria
Argentina and Croatia are the strongest of this group, but the other two teams won’t go down easily. Group D is well balanced, but I still suspect Argentina and Croatia to advance. Either team could take first place. Similarly to Peru, Iceland is coming off of a Cinderella European Qualifiers, surprising many with their spectacular play.
Group E: Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Serbia
Brazil will place first in their group and Costa Rica will place second. Brazil has shaken their devastating 7-1 loss against Germany from the last World Cup and looks like a force to be reckoned with going into the summer.
Group F: Germany, Mexico, Sweden, South Korea
Germany, reigning World Cup and Confederation Cup champions and favorites to win the title again, are the strongest team out of their group and the whole tournament. They should have no trouble with the three teams they were drawn with. Mexico, a fan favorite, could definitely place second, but Sweden and South Korea will put up a fight for that spot as well.
Group G: Belgium, England, Tunisia, Panama
Belgium and England are the biggest threats in this group. Both teams have talented players throughout their squads, putting them in an advantageous position to qualify for the knockout stages.
Group H: Poland, Colombia, Senegal, Japan
Colombia is a fan favorite to claim first place in this group. Second place could go to any of the other three teams, as they are all well balanced.
Russia 2018 World Cup will be an interesting one. Will Germany keep their reign as World Cup champions? Will Mexico make it out of the group stage and pass the dreaded fifth game? Which underdog teams will surprise the world? All of these questions will be answered in June 2018.