World Cup Draw Preview


Despite Ireland not reaching Russia, there is still plenty of football to look forward to next Summer. The Liberty takes a look at each team’s chances for 2018.

Pot One

Russia – The hosts have a lot of work to do if they harbour genuine hopes of progressing past the group stage. Convincingly beaten by Portugal and Mexico in last Summer’s Confederations Cup, head coach Stanislav Cherchesov will be hopeful of better luck on home soil this time around. Key man – Alan Dzagoev.

Germany – Holders of the World Cup after becoming the first ever European side to win outside of the continent in Brazil in 2014. The squad is as strong as the previous campaign and the Germans will be confident of retaining the competition for the first time since Brazil in 1962. Key man – Mesut Ozil.

Brazil – Brazil need a strong performance to exorcise the demons of the 7-1 annihilation by Germany on home soil in the last World Cup. Head coach, Tite, oversaw a brilliant qualification campaign which saw one loss in 18 games. The squad will be hopeful the fantastic attacking talent available can fire them to glory. Key man – Neymar.

Portugal – A final day victory over Switzerland defined Portugal’s automatic qualification to Russia. The European champions will want to go a step further than their third-place finish in the Confederations Cup. Key man – Cristiano Ronaldo.

Argentina – With the little maestro now at the age of 30, a World Cup without Lionel Messi would have been unthinkable to football fans across the world. Thankfully his hat-trick inspired Argentina to a final-day-qualification victory over Ecuador and sealed a place in Russia. Key man – Lionel Messi.

Belgium – Many people’s pick for a dark horse in recent tournaments, could this be the year that Belgium’s golden generation come good? A squad packed full of international talent could go far. Key man – Kevin De Bruyne.

Poland – Can one man fire his side to a World Cup victory? Although it would be remiss to call Poland a one-man team, they will surely need star man Robert Lewandowski to be firing on all cylinders to give a good showing in Russia. Key man – Robert Lewandowski.

France – Can Euro 2016 heartbreak push France to a second World Cup victory? With perhaps the strongest squad on paper, it would not be surprising to see Didier Deschamp’s men go far. Key man – Antoine Griezmann.

Pot Two

Spain – The Spanish will be desperate to right the wrongs of four years ago when they humiliatingly crashed out of the group stage after defeats to Holland and Chile. They should at least go one step better this time around with a very talented squad. Key man – David Silva.

Peru – Ranked tenth in the world, Peru will be appearing in their first World Cup since 1982. Qualifying after a play off victory over New Zealand, Ricardo Gareca’s men could surprise a few. Key man – Jefferson Farfan.

Switzerland – Vanquishers of Northern Ireland in the playoffs, this solid but non-glamourous squad will be confident of progression past the group stages. Key man – Xherdan Shaqiri.

England – The typical English qualification campaign saw the Three Lions top a very average group, offering no indication of how they will perform on the big stage. They will need Harry Kane on top form to have any hope of a decent performance. Key man – Harry Kane.

Colombia – The quarter finalists last time out, Colombia will hope to replicate their performance in Russia. Key man – James Rodriguez.

Mexico – Mexico have qualified for the last 16 of every World Cup since USA 1994. However, they have never made it past that round, don’t expect that to change next summer. Key man – Javier Hernandez.

Uruguay – They got to the last 16 in Brazil and will need to ensure a certain Mr Suarez has eaten before he steps on the pitch, as they will need him firing on all cylinders to do the same again. Key man – Luis Suarez.

Croatia – A team containing the likes of Ivan Rakitic, Luka Modric and Ivan Perisic should have no problems in getting past the group stage. Key man – Luka Modric.

Pot Three

Denmark – A quarter-final appearance in France 1998 is the best performance by a Danish side in the World Cup. They will need Christian Eriksen to show the sparkling form he did in the Dublin playoff to reach the same stage. Key man – Christian Eriksen.

Iceland – The surprise package of recent international football. Could Iceland spring a surprise in Russia and eliminate another big name like they did to England in Euro 2016? Don’t bet against it. Key man – Gylfi Sigurdsson.

Costa Rica – A penalty shootout away from the semi-finals last time out after qualifying from a group containing England, Uruguay and Italy. They will do well to repeat that performance this time out. Key man – Bryan Ruiz.

Sweden – How will the Swedes perform on the world stage without the talismanic Zlatan Ibrahimovic? The defensive solidity shown in the playoff victory over Italy could serve them well. Key man – Emil Forsberg.

Tunisia – One-of-three North-African sides to qualify, this will be their fifth appearance on the World stage, last appearing in Germany 2006. Key man – Wahbi Khazri.

Egypt – The Pharoah’s first appearance since 1990 will be the World Cup debut of forty-four year old goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary. Key man – Mohamed Salah.

Senegal – Since creating friends across the globe with a famous victory over France in the opening game of the 2002 World Cup, they will be confident of a repeat performance. Key man – Sadio Mane.

Iran – Carlos Quieroz’s men will not be fancied by many outside of Asia, but they will be quietly confident of upsetting a few of the so-called ‘bigger sides’. Key man – Sardar Azmoun.

Pot Four

Serbia – Breezing past Ireland and Wales in qualifying rounds, the Serbs will face tougher conditions in Russia. Key man – Adem Ljajic.

Australia – Can the Socceroos better their last 16 appearance in Germany 2006? Unlikely. Key man – Tim Cahill.

Nigeria – Topping a qualification group including Cameroon and Algeria, they will be hopeful of progression from the groups. Key man – Alex Iwobi.

Morocco – A first World Cup appearance in 20 years for the Atlas Lions. Key man – Younes Belhanda.

Japan – They will need Shinji Kagawa and Shinji Okazaki to turn on the style if they hope to progress. Key man – Shinji Okazaki.

South Korea – Having famously reached the semi-final in 2002, they’re unlikely to repeat the performance this time around. Key man – Son Heung-Min.

Saudi Arabia – They are an unknown package considering this is their first World Cup appearance since 2006. Key man – Taisir Al-Jassim.

Panama – Making their World Cup debut after dumping the USA out of the qualifiers, they could capture the hearts of neutrals if they perform. Key man – Blas Perez.

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