The World Cup Qualifying Matches – Highs and Lows
The World Cup qualifiers brought us both unexpected successes and dramatic exits. The biggest shock was Italy’s failure to reach the finals for the first time since 1958. The Azzurri lost out to Sweden in the play-offs, ensuring that they won’t be the recipients of the famous golden football trophy next year.
Iceland, who surprised many when they reached the quarter-finals of the 2016 European Championship, have continued to capitalise on their success. They’ll be making their first ever appearance at a World Cup finals at the Russia 2018 event, as will Panama.
Joy for Panama meant disappointment for the United States, who failed to make it through for the first time in 22 years. As a result of their qualifying performances, Chile, Cameroon, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Greece, Austria, Turkey, Ghana, the Ivory Coast and Bosnia-Herzegovina will be absent from the Russia 2018 finals too.
The Three Lions’ journey to the finals was relatively straightforward in the end. They won eight and drew two of their qualifying matches, and finished at the top of Group F. Unfortunately, they’ll be the only home nation there. Wales and Scotland couldn’t do enough to secure a place, while Switzerland and Denmark put pay to Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland’s hopes respectively at the play-off stage.
The FIFA World Cup Draw – Who is in Which Pot?
The 32 teams who have qualified have been divided into four pots for the purposes of the draw, which takes place on 1 December 2017. Russia, the host nation, who qualified automatically, were placed in Pot 1, while the remaining 31 teams were divided according to their world rankings, using FIFA’s October 2017 statistics.
Germany, France and Brazil, the bookies’ current three favourites, are in Pot 1. The pot also contains Portugal, Argentina, Belgium and Poland. England, seeded 12th, are in Pot 2, alongside Spain, Peru, Switzerland, Columbia, Mexico, Uruguay and Croatia.
First-time finalists Iceland’s Pot 3 companions include Denmark, Costa Rica, Egypt, Sweden, Senegal, Tunisia and Iran. Australia’s Socceroos, who won their fourth consecutive World Cup finals place by defeating Honduras in the play-offs, are in Pot 4, together with Serbia, Saudi Arabia, Panama, Morocco, South Korea, Nigeria and Japan.
How Does This Affect the Three Lions’ Trophy-Winning Chances?
Each nation will be placed in a different World Cup finals group from the rest of the teams in their pot, which means that England won’t face Spain or any of the other Pot 2 teams until the knock-out stages. However, they could end up in a group with one of their other UEFA rivals: Russia, Germany, Portugal, Belgium, Poland, France, Denmark, Iceland, Serbia or Sweden.
Non-UEFA teams who could be drawn in the Three Lions’ group include old rivals Argentina, as well as five-time tournament winners, Brazil, both of whom are in Pot One. However, with so many possible variables, it’s impossible to assess the likelihood of Gareth Southgate’s men reaching the competition’s knockout stages, let alone clinching the title, until the draw has taken place.
Which teams have impressed you so far? Who do you want England to be drawn against in the group stages of the World Cup finals? Leave a comment below.