We've got the stage set for the biggest tournament in the world after the World Cup draw for Russia was unveiled Friday. No, the good ol' US of A isn't going to be playing next summer in the World Cup and you're going to have to get over it. Now you have to watch the beautiful game in its most beautiful form without them. But that doesn't mean we don't have some enticing matchups of epic proportions. And yes, there is—as always—a Group of Death.
Without going too far into the machinations of how the draw works (just know that it has at least the appearance of being fair and evenly distributed among continents), here are the full draw results for you:
- Saudi Arabia
- Costa Rica
- South Korea
Everyone is going to weigh in about who that Group of Death is, but it's pretty much broken down to two: Group B and Group F. With Spain and Portugal drawn first for Group B, pretty much every other nation was quaking in their boots about who would get drawn to face them.
But Spain and Portugal likely smirked when Morocco and Iran were drawn in their group. Neither team is a powerhouse—with Morocco's last qualification 20 years ago in 1998, and Iran perennially bows out. Looks like there will be no rift in the Iberian peninsula next summer.
So what we're left with is Group F. If you're a fan of Mexico, you're feeling a bit of 'terror' (that's Spanish for 'terror') as you have to play out your first match against Germany. And then you have to face down the Italy-topping Sweden and traditional Asian powerhouse South Korea?! Tricky. But also, Mexico is in great form right now, so maybe Germany, South Korea, and Sweden have something to fear themselves. Group F seems to be the like a Jigsaw trap—people gonna die (I haven't seen Saw, so I'm just guessing here). Japan was nearly drawn into that group, which would have put things over the top. But South Korea is nothing to shake a stick at.
The obvious group of life is Group A, which Russia happens to be in. I know what you're thinking: cheaters! And there was a weird undercurrent throughout the draw ceremony about whether or not there was any shady business going on—draw host Gary Lineker basically kept making, 'well, let's hope no one swapped the teams out' jokes, which was not such a subtle way of acknowledging that we were in the epicenter of the centrifugal corruption forces of both Russia and FIFA combined. But the hosts always have things a little bit easy—they're ensured they don't draw with top teams. But this Group A? This is a cake walk.
Yes, Uruguay is the clearly dominant team in Group A. It beat out Colombia and Argentina (not to mention Chile) in CONMEBOL qualifying, which was an unusually tough round this year. But second place is up for grabs, and it looks like it's Russia's to lose. Egypt hasn't qualified since 1990 and Saudi Arabia is usually a pushover, but this is an unpredictable game.
As for your underdogs, it looks like the lovable (and tiny!) Iceland has a tricky group. Yes, Argentina. Messi. But Croatia has Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic, and Nigeria is consistently one of the best teams from Africa. The Super Eagles are no joke. Let's just hope that viking magic continues for the nation of 330,000 people.
Peru, the other team you'll want to root for (it toppled Chile, and qualified for the first time since 1982!) seems to have things a bit easier. Denmark is usually weak, and Australia barely survived in a playoff with their 37-year-old star Tim Cahill. So maybe Peru has some life. France, though...
People are going to talk about how England is going to qualify in its group, but let's be honest... the country consistently underperforms at World Cups, and even lowly Tunisia could upset them for all I know. Belgium should have the No. 1 spot, and Panama looks to be on the outs.
But here's the best part about the biggest sports tournament in the world: it involves a game that can be drastically changed by one point. It's a funny game, and the World Cup honestly can be anyone's. (Just not the US's.)