Germany meets Mexico and Portugal will get Spain

Bessie Dean
December 5, 2017

The Atlas Lions have been handed, arguably, the most hard group among the five countries representing the continent, as they share Group B with former World Cup champions Spain, reigning European champions Portugal and Iran.

Title contenders Brazil have been placed with Switzerland, Costa Rica and Serbia in Group E.

Germany were placed with Mexico, Sweden and South Korea in Group F as Joachim Loew's men try to become the first nation to retain the title since Brazil in 1962. With Nigeria performing well lately, Croatia having a variety of individual talents including Real Madrid's Luka Modric, Iceland putting up a brilliant show of shared strength and Argentina struggling to qualify while having a pretty decent squad that includes Lionel Messi, the group will result in a set of balanced yet competitive face-offs.

Spain will have to face their neighbours, the European champions Portugal, in a tough-looking group after a 2018 World Cup draw which handed the hosts Russian Federation a seemingly straightforward route to the knockout rounds.

And France are expected to easily win Group C, where they have Peru, Denmark and Australia to contend with.

Hosts Russia, guaranteed a top seed despite being FIFA's lowest-ranked team in the draw, will open the tournament against Saudi Arabia on June 14 at the 81,000-capacity Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, before taking on Uruguay and Egypt. But one of the group's charms will be the teams featuring Robert Lewandowski in Poland, James Rodriguez in Colombia, Shinji Kagawa of Japan and Sadio Mane in Senegal.

Iceland were drawn with Argentina Croatia and Nigeria in group D
Iceland were drawn with Argentina Croatia and Nigeria in group DBertrand Langlois AFP Getty Images

It did not take long for the bookmakers to install defending champions Germany and five-time champions Brazil as favourites to win next year's World Cup in Russian Federation following Friday's draw.

The United States is missing from soccer's top event for the first time since 1986 and four-time champion Italy will be watching from afar for the first time since 1958. The team will then play two other decisive matches on June 20 and June 25 against Portugal and Spain, respectively. The victor of Group A will face the runner-up of Group B, with Groups C and D, E and F, and G and H similarly paired. It would be better, if possible, for someone else to face the hosts. Mexico have been eliminated in the round of 16 at six straight World Cups.

"Other countries have been watching us over the last few years and they have progressed and they have great players".

"Although it's a hard group, we believe in ourselves and definitely we can advance from the group", he said.

It was Portugal, the reigning European champions, who were handed an Iberian derby in a glitzy ceremony held at the Moscow Kremlin and featuring an appearance from Russian President Vladimir Putin alongside Federation Internationale de Football Association president Gianni Infantino.

"We will do everything to make it a major sporting festival", Putin said, anticipating a World Cup of "friendship and fair play, values that do not change with time". "That's what we are coming for". Mutko also vowed to defend them "to the last bullet".

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