With the World Cup draw completed, and everyone knowing their groups (apart from the three with play-off teams), I will look at the five teams who will be happiest with the draw (Winners) and those who will we wanting a Champions-League style redraw.https://theathletic.com/news/controversy-as-manchester-united-incorrectly-excluded-from-section-of-champions-league-draw/1gkpbyKCs8qR/
The draw in fullEmbed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images
1) EnglandEmbed from Getty Images
England, arguably had the best draw for the tournament, can this help them to repeat the success of 1966?
This was another positive draw for the Three Lions, who in being placed in Pot One, avoided the likes of Brazil, Argentina and Belgium, for the first time since 2010, they will be clear favourites for a group (best not remind us what happened then.)
In terms of the draw they got USA as the Pot Two team, this is a team who finished third behind Canada and Mexico in their qualification stage, only edging automatically to the tournament on goal difference, condemning Costa Rica to the play-off.
This is a very different team to the one of eight years ago and can only really boast the talents of Christian Pulisic (23, Chelsea) and Giovanni Reyna (19, Borussia Dortmund), both of whom are very young and do not have the experience of the fabled pair of Clint Dempsey and Landon Donavon of the 2010 team.
England will have to be wary of a USA team on matchday 2 (25th November) but on paper are the best side for England to draw from the pot based on the FIFA World rankings.
England will start against Iran, who once again were one of the more favourable teams, avoiding tougher teams such as Senegal, Japan and Poland.
Whilst they didn’t get the dream draw of Saudi Arabia, as this was impossible because of Iran’s inclusion in the group, the chance to play Scotland or Wales brings some excitement to this group. In terms of who they could still draw at this point, this was the best possible outcome.
England will look at the group favourably and will also see a chance for a Ecuador or Senegal last 16 clash (providing they win the group) which is must more promising than Spain or Germany, or Portugal or Uruguay.
2) NetherlandsEmbed from Getty Images
The Dutch are back at the World Cup after missing the tournament in Russia, could 2022 finally be the year they lift their first World Cup?
This is an easy one, they may have the AFCON champions, Senegal, who will be a tough test for any team but to avoid the top seven ranked teams in the World by drawing Qatar is of great luck.
Ecuador, who are also in this group, were incredibly impressive in qualifying finishing in a shockingly respectable 3rd ahead of Uruguay, Peru, Colombia and Chile. They will provide a stern test for the Dutch but with the chance of having Virgil Van Dijk at this tournament, Netherlands should coast through the group.
They will also look at Group B in the same way England look at Group A, a great opportunity for an easier last 16 draw. To be given the chance of USA, Iran or either one of Scotland, Wales or Ukraine in the last 16 of a World Cup is a blessing.
While the World Cup has a habit of throwing up shock results and this is a Dutch side that lost 2-0 to the Czech Republic in the 2021 Euros last 16, they will be confident with Van Dijk back at the form of Memphis Depay at Barcelona that the quarter-finals should be a very realistic goal (providing they beat Senegal).
After failing to qualify in 2018, they will looking to make up for lost time and this draw can definitely aide the 2010 runners-up and 2014 third place side into reaching such heights again.
3) BelgiumEmbed from Getty Images
Belgium are almost at the end of their golden generation, is 2022 their last chance to add silverware to their World Number One ranking?
When you are the number one side in the World there is a good chance you will get a relatively comfortable draw for the World Cup but barring the variable of Canada and an aging Croatia side they will be counting themselves lucky.
Considering Senegal, Uruguay and Germany were also very much possible opponents a Croatia side whose stars are well into their thirties, Luka Modric (will be 37 at the start of tournament), Ivan Perisic (33), Ivan Rakitic (34) and Dejan Lovren (33 at start of tournament), they are far from the team that almost conquered the World four years ago.
They are still dangerous but only just qualified for the tournament because of a 81st minute own goal by Russia in their last game, which saw them win 1-0 at the expense of their now internationally disgraced hosts.
Croatia lost to Slovenia in Matchday 1, drew with Russia and Slovakia on the road to Qatar. Whilst they pulled it back their loss 5-3 to Spain in the Euros suggest they may no longer be everyone’s dark horse.
They drew Morocco in pot 2, who made the AFCON quarter-finals losing an inspired Egypt side led by Mo Salah. Their qualifying was capped off by an impressive 4-1 win against DR Congo, but the level of the World Cup is much higher and although Archaf Hakimi is an exceptional talent, we saw at the last World Cup with Mo Salah, one world class player is not enough to be successful.
The last team they drew was Canada, who personally I wanted England to avoid, winners of the CONCACAF qualifying group at their first World Cup since 1986, I have already discussed the strengths and dangers of Canada in another article so if you want to, please check it out.
Canada are a wildcard, they could be really impressive because of their explosive striking talent or they could crumble under the pressure and lack of experience, either way having a team with as much potential as Canada in your group is slightly concerning.
Despite this, Belgium have an exceptional team led by Kevin De Bruyne (30, Man City) and Romelu Lukaku (28, Chelsea) and may see this tournament and their chance to finally win something in their golden generation.
4) FranceEmbed from Getty Images
France are the World Cup holders, can they be the first team since Brazil in 1962 to retain the World Cup?
Les Bleus, will have to contend with the infamous World Cup curse, which has seen the last three winners (Italy- 2006, Spain- 2010, Germany- 2014) all crash out of the group stage in the next tournament.
This makes it all the more imperative that they avoid a tough group like Spain’s in 2014 (Netherlands and Chile) because this could only add to the jeopardy.
In all seriousness, they should easily qualify from this group with Denmark being their closest competitors but despite an impressive qualifying display (9 wins and one loss) they, like Croatia, have an aging squad.
Despite an impressive semi-final appearance at last year’s Euros, they had a relatively comfortable run to the final, with Russia in their group, Wales in the last 16 and Czech Republic in the last 8, all teams they should be beating.
Their strength to recover from Christian Eriksen’s cardiac arrest was immense but they may struggle to replicate the drive and desire from that tournament, I am not saying they are a bad team but France will grateful they did not get Germany or the Netherlands.
The Pot 3 team was Tunisia, who scraped past Mali (1-0) in their two-legged play-off final, in the last two years, the team ranked 35th (5th amongst African teams) have suffered some embarrassing results.
These include a 1-1 AFCON qualifier with Tanzania (ranked 130th, below the Faroe Islands and Kazakhstan), a World Cup qualifier draw with Mauritania, 0-0 (ranked 113th, below Thailand and North Korea) a loss to Equatorial Guinea in WC qualifying, 1-0 (ranked 99th, below Vietnam and Lebanon) and a loss to Gambia (ranked 123rd, below Libya and Guatemala.)
These results show they are a long way behind the team that impressively held England until the last minute in 2018.
France will then have to play either Australia, UAE or Peru, they should comfortably have enough to beat any of these teams, particularly with Mbappe and co looking to redeem themselves after their last 16 exit to Switzerland at the Euros.
5) ArgentinaEmbed from Getty Images
Surely this is Messi's last and best chance to win the World Cup, with a squad with experience of international success, can 2022 the year the little magician adds the World Cup to his incredible list of accolades?
The 2021 Copa America winners will also be grateful for avoiding Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland. This selection is mostly down to who they have got in their group.
They have Mexico, a team that can no longer boast of its CONCACAF domination, having lost the Gold Cup to USA and the typical qualifying top spot to Canada.
This topped by draws against Honduras and Costa Rica in qualifying show a team in decline, with star player Hirving Lozano only having 4 goals for Napoli this season and only 1 goal in the qualifying campaign.
The return of Raul Jimenez from his head injury has boosted Mexico but they are not the same outfit that beat Germany at the World Cup four years ago, expect them to get through because they always make the last 16 (they have done in every tournament since 1994) and then get knocked out.
Poland always seem to be a difficult team to get but then you remember their team seems to crumble at major tournaments. Despite boasting the best striker in world football for the last 7 years, Robert Lewandowski (scoring 234 goals in just 246 league games for Bayern) they have failed to make it out of the group stage at their last two tournaments despite favourable groups.
Lewandowski is also regarded as one of the best players never to score at the World Cup, failing to score in three matches, for Poland to turn around their poor tournament form he will have to be firing but for Argentina their lack of success is a boost.
The last team in their group is arguably the best team for anyone to draw, Saudi Arabia. They showed their weakness in 2018, losing 5-0 to Russia and despite their successful qualifying they drew with China (77th in World) and Saudi Arabia are 49th in the World (below Republic of Ireland and Romania).
This is a real positive to Argentina who will look to get to a better start than last World Cup in which they drew 1-1 with Iceland.
1) SpainEmbed from Getty Images
Spain have been handed been handed a tough test against Germany, who will secure top spot?
This spot could go to Germany but as Spain were the top seed and Germany would mostly likely have to face a tough team anyway, Spain takes this spot.
The pick is self-explanatory, they got the toughest second-place team, alongside Japan who has a habit of being rather difficult at the World Cup, just against Belgium who needed a last-minute Nacer Chadli goal to knock them out in 2018.
With the second place team in this group most likely facing Belgium in the last 16 this will be a draw that Spain would have liked to avoid.
Added to this, Costa Rica or New Zealand (most likely Costa Rica), who are not the worst team to get but certainly not the best.
2) QatarEmbed from Getty Images
Cafu was smiling when he drew the hosts out first but the smiles of the Qatar fans must have waned when they saw their group
As the hosts, and worst ranked team, they were always going to get a tough draw but even they would have hoped for something a bit easier.
They got the second best Pot 2 team (in terms of ranking but I believe they are more dangerous than Mexico), the best pot three team in AFCON champions Senegal (20th) and the team with the most form in pot 4 (Ecuador).
As I explained for Netherlands, while it is not tough for the Dutch, the fact that they got such an unfortunate 3rd team will definitely see them out in the group stage.
3) GhanaEmbed from Getty Images
A group not mentioned yet, probably because it is rather even but for Ghana this draw could have been more favourable. To get Portugal, Uruguay and South Korea is unfortunate because of the top quality players who play for them.
While they might not be the best teams (as shown by their qualification struggles, Portugal finished behind Serbia and Uruguay behind Ecuador) the prospect of Cristiano Ronaldo, Diogo Jota, Bruno Fernandes, Joao Felix and Bernando Silva in attack, Ruben Dias and Joao Cancelo in defence (Portugal) Luis Suarez and possibly Edinson Cavani (Uruguay) and Heung Min-Son for South Korea will be giving the Ghanaian players nightmares.
When they could have been in Group B with USA and Iran, they will be extremely disappointed with how the draw has turned out.
4) CameroonEmbed from Getty Images
Cameroon have a tough group with some of the most in-form countries in the World
Once again another African team who has suffered because of the high ranking of European teams.
Cameroon were always going to have a tough draw being in Pot 4 but have got favourites Brazil, Portugal conquerors Serbia and France conquerors Switzerland.
Furthermore, Switzerland finished ahead of Italy in their qualfying group, further adding to the form the two Europeans sides are in.
This is why it is rather irrelevant to look at rankings in this way, Switzerland and Serbia will have confidence from their qualification and added to Brazil side who were unbeaten in qualifying (14 wins and 3 draws), the Cameroonians have a daunting task on their hands.
When the draw could have group B and the already documented easier way through, they will be reeling.
5) Costa Rica/ New ZealandEmbed from Getty Images
They may not be at the tournament yet, but either Costa Rica or New Zealand are in for a tough time
They are not even at the World Cup and might be thinking of packing their bags back home again.
Whilst both have been surprise packages in recent years, Costa Rica reached the quarters in 2014, topping a group with Uruguay, Italy and England, and New Zealand remaining unbeaten in 2010, drawing with Paraguay, Slovakia and Italy (with New Zealand being the only unbeaten team in the tournament), they must surely feel like this is too much.
To have Spain, Germany and Japan in your group with the prospect of Belgium, if they somehow make it through mustbe worrying.
I guess the way to look at it is that they go in as complete underdogs and any result is a plus.
They will have to think this way as any result seems highly unlikely.