There were more than a few raised eyebrows when it was seen that this years World Cup hosts have been drawn alongside Uruguay, Egypt and Saudi Arabia in Group A. It means they have a genuine chance of proceeding to the knockout stages for the first time in the post-Soviet era – and on home soil to boot.
There are more than a few teams eyeing them enviously, so let’s take a look at the toughest draws, and the groups where even the top teams will have to be at the top of their game to proceed to the business end of the tournament.
Group D – this year’s Group of Death?
There’s been no shortage of talk about Messi having a genuine shot at taking Argentina to World Cup glory for the first time in more than 30 years. But they will have to do it the hard way. This is the group that has it all, and fans across the world will be rushing to get World Cup – Group of Death betting odds and predictions in a group that also contains Croatia, tipped by many to be a potential semi-finalist, Nigeria, who showed their battling spirit in the recent friendly against England and Iceland, who proved at Euro 16 that they are capable of taking on anyone.
Group F – anything could happen
Germany should by all rights dominate Group F, but there are no bad teams here, and there will be no room for freewheeling. Mexico will pose a genuine threat to them in their opening game, are more than capable of pulling off a win. If they do, the group will be wide open. The news that there will be no curtain call for Zlatan Ibrahimovic has dented Swedish hopes of a repeat of their 1994 heroics, but they are still a capable team. And Korea also have a habit of pulling surprises at World Cups.
Group E – the battle for second
Brazil are favourites to win the entire event, so they should top their group without difficulty. But beyond that, there will be a real scrap for the other qualifying spot, and it’s too close to call. Switzerland and Serbia are both teams that are good enough to make the knockout stage, but don’t rule out Costa Rica – four years ago, they showed immense character and team spirit to make the quarter finals, and if they arrive in Russia in a similar mood, both Switzerland and Serbia could be on an early flight home.
Group B – potential surprises
On paper, you might look at Group B and think Spain and Portugal should go through. For sure, that’s exactly what should happen. What makes this group interesting, however, is that Morocco and Iran had two of the most impressive defensive records during the qualification stage. People are already talking about a Ronaldo / Messi matchup in the quarters, but Portugal’s star will need to be on top form on 20th and 25th June, or it could be over before it begins.