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Dec. 3, 2017

World Cup groups announced

by Nate Bodner, Sports Editor
The draw results from Friday, December 1 in Moscow are out, and every team now knows the groups for the 2018 World Cup. It did not go unnoticed this year that former powerhouses like 2006 World Cup champion Italy, and 2010 World Cup runner-up The Netherlands as well as numerous other former teams, including the United States all came up short in qualifying. But, a wealth of new teams have looked very dangerous and are ready to make their mark next summer in Moscow.

All 32 of the qualifying teams are placed in four pots, based off FIFA's October rankings. As the host nation, Russia automatically qualified, and was placed in the top seed for Group A, although they were the lowest ranked team.

Group Stages:

Each team plays every other team in their group, and the top two advance to the knockout stage. Teams get three points for a win, one for a tie, and zero for a loss.

Group A: Russia, Uruguay, Egypt, Saudi Arabia
Prediction: Uruguay will come out of the group in first place, having finished second in the extremely difficult South American qualifying tournament. After them, the host nation Russia will escape the group stage for the first time in World Cup History, due in part to the more than favorable draw. Egypt and Saudi Arabia are both probably not going to advance, but Egypt is the team to look out for of the two.

Group B: Portugal, Spain, Iran, Morocco
Prediction: Portugal and Spain will be the top two coming out of this group, with the two teams combining for the last three European Championships, and both teams also boasting some of the best players in the sport. Morocco is another team that has a lot of young talent and should not be underestimated.

Group C: France, Peru, Denmark, Australia
Prediction: France is going to be the top seed in this group, and possibly come away with all nine points. The French are serious contenders to lift the trophy, and their roster sports a wealth of talent from some of the biggest clubs in Europe. Denmark, who scored five straight goals away at Ireland in qualifying, will likely squeak into the knockout stage behind them, if they can take down Peru.

Group D: Argentina, Croatia, Iceland, Nigeria
Prediction: Lionel Messi and 2014 World Cup runner-up Argentina, are going to come into Russia with a vengeance and win this group. Nigeria, the strongest team from the African Nations, should be able to sneak into the round of 16 behind Argentina, but they'll have to take down Croatia, who also surely thinks they have a good shot at moving on. Iceland is the fan favorite of this group, but it would take a miracle for them to advance.

Group E: Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Serbia
Prediction: Brazil will breeze through this group, just as they did in qualifying, finishing as the top seed in South America. Switzerland and Serbia are both solid squads, but Costa Rica will be the surprise again and advance behind Brazil. The Ticos shocked the world in 2014, beating Uruguay, Italy, and England to win their group and advance all the way to the quarterfinals. Don't sleep on them again this year.

Group F: Germany, Mexico, Sweden, South Korea
Prediction: Defending World Cup Champion Germany will come out strong and secure the first seed in Group F. Behind them, this is an interesting group. Mexico will face Germany in its first game, then will most likely have to win back-to-back against Sweden, who knocked off Italy in qualifying, and the improving South Korea to advance. The second spot will go to El Tri, but any mistakes from them will open the door for Sweden.

Group G: Belgium, England, Tunisia, Panama
Predictions: Belgium emerged as a very solid team in 2014, knocking off the United States en route to a quarterfinals finish, and they should come out on top in this group. England, The Three Lions, will surely follow them, despite a terrible showing in 2014. Tunisia and Panama are both much farther back in the rankings and won't have much of a chance.

Group H: Poland, Colombia, Senegal, Japan
Prediction: Colombia, led by the 2014 leading goal scorer James Rodriguez (six goals), will upset top seeded Poland and claim the top spot in this group. But this group is still wide open. Poland will most likely take the other spot and advance, but neither Japan or Senegal are teams to take lightly.

Even though it's early, some top matches to watch in the group stage are Germany vs Mexico, Belgium vs England, Argentina vs Nigeria, and Portugal vs Spain.

Need a team to support now that the United States is not in the World Cup? Take this short online quiz, courtesy of fivethirtyeight, to determine which squad is the best fit for you in Russia next summer.



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