FIFA World Cup 2018 Draw

As I am prone to doing, I’ve done a redraw of the 2018 FIFA World Cup based purely on the rankings. The rankings used are FIFA’s October ones, as that was the latest available ranking when the draw itself took place.

The result of the real draw can be seen here.

Group A Group B Group C Group D Group E Group F Group G Group H
Germany Brazil Portugal Argentina Belgium Poland Switzerland France
Denmark Croatia Uruguay England Mexico Peru Spain Colombia
Costa Rica Iceland Sweden Tunisia Egypt Senegal Iran Serbia
Saudi Arabia South Korea Panama Russia Japan Australia Morocco Nigeria

I abided by the FIFA rules that each team could have no more than 1 team from each Confederation (or no more than 2 from UEFA). To comply with this I had to swap Iceland and Costa Rica to stop there being too many UEFA teams in Group A and I had to move Australia and Japan along one to prevent there being two Asian Football Association teams in group G. (Yes, Australia is in the Asian Football Confederation, not the Oceania one.)

Panama, South Korea and Saudi Arabia have all been moved up one, again to prevent there being too many UEFA teams in group A. I had to move that many because if I’d just swapped Saudi Arabia, there’d be too many UEFA teams in B, and if just Saudi Arabia and South Korea then there would have been too many in Group C. Mostly this shows how many more European teams are put in the World Cup draw.

Groups A, D and H have 1 out of 4 of the same teams as the random draw, while groups B, C, E, F and G are completely different. I suspect Portugal and Spain might prefer mine, while in my draw, groups B and H are a bit group of deathy.

FIFA, however, also have a tradition whereby the host country is always the first team in group A (so that they get to have the opening match). If I apply this rule to a draw from the rankings, you get these pools.

Group A Group B Group C Group D Group E Group F Group G Group H
Russia Germany Brazil Portugal Argentina Belgium Poland Switzerland
Croatia Uruguay England Peru Mexico Spain Colombia France
Costa Rica Denmark Iceland Sweden Tunisia Egypt Senegal Iran
Saudi Arabia South Korea Panama Morocco Japan Australia Serbia Nigeria

For version 2 I had to swap Peru and Mexico to stop there being two South American teams in group E, Denmark and Costa Rica to stop there being too many European teams in group A and Serbia and Nigeria to stop there being too many European teams in group H. Finally, I also had to swap Japan and Morocco to prevent there being two African teams in group E.

Group A now has 2/4 teams the same as the real drawn while the remaining groups are completely different. I suspect England are glad this wasn’t the real draw, as they would face the mighty Iceland (and some team called Brazil), and groups E and F look tasty.

There was a big to-do-age about how easy Russia’s real draw was, but I think it’s more of an artefact of putting the hosts in Group A. Because Russia’s ranking is lower than everyone else’s, there were always going to be two weak teams in A, and, because Russia are in UEFA, the weak team weren’t going to be the weakest of the European teams, who might, or might not, be better than Saudi Arabia, who they did get.

And, even with this allegedly suspiciously easy group (I am deeply, deeply dubious of the stats, factoids and logic used to define group A as an easy group, from a Russian perspective), Russia still aren’t going to qualify.

I know this, you know this, they know this. The terribleness of the Russian national football team is known factor.

It is inexplicable.

I have no idea if it’s because the shape of the Russian football season is so different to others, or if it’s that the huge amounts of money floating about the Russian league have lead to a lack of players for the national team, or if my curse on Fabio Capello had some unfortunate knock-on effects. Maybe all the really athletically ept Russians do other sports. Whatever the cause, there is something rotten with Russian football and they haven’t been able to fix it before this World Cup. That means that the atmosphere for the later stages might be lacking. That FIFA know this, and might try to fix it, might be why people were suspicious of the draw, although I think it was within the bounds of probable draws due to Russia being picked first.

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