2018 World Cup draw preview: What you need to know

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Plus everything you need to know about the draw for Russia 2018.

Qualifying for the 2018 World Cup concluded on Wednesday night, with Peru clinching the final place in Russia. With their entry, the pots for the World Cup draw were set, and fans can start thinking about the possible matchups they’re going to see this summer.

The 2018 World Cup draw is coming up fast. Here’s everything you need to know about it.

When is the World Cup draw?

The draw takes place on Friday, December 1 from the Kremlin in Moscow. If you’re in the United States, you can watch it on FS1 with coverage starting at 10 a.m. ET.

How many teams from each continent made the World Cup?

As usual, Europe has the most participants. In this edition of the World Cup, that’s 14 teams, and none of them had to face off against a team from another confederation to make it. Asia, South America and Africa all have five teams each, while three North American teams made it. Oceania will have no representatives, with New Zealand failing to win its intercontinental playoff.

World Cup draw pots

Pot 1: Russia, Germany, Brazil, Portugal, Argentina, Belgium, Poland, France

Pot 2: Spain, Peru, Switzerland, England, Colombia, Mexico, Uruguay, Croatia

Pot 3: Denmark, Iceland, Costa Rica, Sweden, Tunisia, Egypt, Senegal, Iran

Pot 4: Serbia, Nigeria, Australia, Japan, Morocco, Panama, South Korea, Saudi Arabia

Unlike previous editions of the World Cup, all of the pots are based on FIFA rankings. Previously, only Pot 1 would be seeded, while the rest of the pots would be grouped by geography. Russia gets an automatic spot in Pot 1 as the host country.

How does the World Cup draw work?

All of the teams in Pot 1 are assigned to groups, then all of the teams in Pot 2, and so on until there are eight groups with four teams apiece.

Even though FIFA has changed the way the pots were assigned, there is still a geographical element to the draw. Two countries from Asia, Africa, South America or North America cannot be drawn together in the group stage, while a maximum of two European teams can be in the same group.

What would a hypothetical “Group of Death” look like?

This pot assignment makes true groups of death a bit harder to come by. But something like Brazil, Spain, Denmark and Nigeria would be horribly unfair to all four teams involved. Germany, Colombia, Sweden and South Korea could make up another particularly nasty group in the same tournament. But it seems likely that this draw process will produce well-balanced groups, rather than a couple of spectacular ones and a couple of groups that don’t garner much general interest.

Is there an obvious favorite here?

No, and there’s no team that you can point to as being undeserving either. Everyone had to beat multiple good teams to get into this World Cup, and no one’s been flawless over the last couple of years. This is about as wide open as a World Cup has ever been.

Germany is certainly the closest thing to a favorite after they won the Confederations Cup with a B-team. More so than any other squad, Germany has the depth to withstand injuries. Brazil probably can’t say that about Neymar, Portugal looks ordinary without Cristiano Ronaldo, and Argentina has been terrible whenever Lionel Messi has missed time.

But all of those teams can justifiably target winning the World Cup. So can Belgium, France and Spain if everything goes right for them. We’re also not that far removed from Uruguay making the semifinals in 2010, and 2002 featured a pair of non-traditional semifinalists in South Korea and Turkey.

International soccer doesn’t have any definitive, dominant teams right now. And that should make the 2018 World Cup especially fun.

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