The draw for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia throws up exciting matches including Spain against Italy and Netherland versus France.
ST PETERSBURG, RUSSIA (JULY 25, 2015) 9FIFA – FIFA President Sepp Blatter said at the 2018 world cup draw in Russia on Saturday (July 25) that soccer is building bridges and bringing people together.
With Russia’s President Vladimir Putin standing on stage alongside him, Blatter also said visitors to the tournament will be met with “warmth, friendship and real Russian hospitality”.
With the draw then getting under way, Spain and Italy were placed in the same qualifying group, as were Netherlands and France, but holders Germany were handed a kinder campaign, with the Czech Republic their chief rivals.
Spain, world champions in 2010, and Italy, who won the last of their four titles in 2006, are favourites to fill the top two slots in Group G after being paired with Albania, Israel, Macedonia and Liechtenstein.
Only the group winners will automatically advance to the finals, however, with the eight best runners-up from nine groups fighting it out in playoffs for four other berths.
Things do not look so straightforward in Group A where the Netherlands and France face tricky opponents in Sweden, Bulgaria, Belarus and Luxembourg,
Germany, who won the World Cup for the fourth time in Brazil last year, will face the Czechs, Northern Ireland, Norway, Azerbaijan and San Marino.
England, whose only World Cup win came in 1966 but who have been regular qualifiers in recent years, again look well placed after being grouped with their oldest rivals Scotland in Group F, along with Slovakia, Slovenia, Lithuania and Malta.
Wales will have high hopes of reaching the finals for the first time since 1958 having been placed, after the benefit of a rare top seeding, alongside Austria, Serbia, Ireland, Moldova and Georgia.
The other groups look open, with Portugal, Switzerland and Hungary in Group B, Romania, Poland and Denmark in Group E, Belgium and Bosnia in Group H and Croatia, Iceland, Ukraine and Turkey in Group I.
Hosts Russia qualify automatically, meaning 14 European teams will be in the finals in three years’ time.
The draw was made for South American zone matchday 1.
Colombia will face Peru; Chile will meet Brazil; Argentina confront Ecuador; Venezuela play Paraguay; and Bolivia faceUruguay.
The United States, who have qualified for the past seven World Cups, will begin their quest for an eighth straight appearance in Russia in 2018 with Trinidad & Tobago likely to provide the toughest opposition in their first qualifying group.
The U.S., who reached the last 16 in Brazil last year, will also meet the winners of two earlier qualifying round games — St Vincent and the Grenadines v Aruba, and Antigua and Barbuda v Guatemala.
Mexico, who meet Jamaica in the Gold Cup final on Monday, will play Honduras in their opening qualifying group as well as the winners of the earlier round ties — Curacao v El Salvador and Canada v Belize.
Jamaica, whose ranking means they have to enter the competition at an earlier stage, face Nicaragua in a two-legged tie.
If they win that tie they will go into a group containing Costa Rica and Panama as seeded teams. Grenada or Haiti will also be in the same group.
The top two teams in those three groups will go into a final group of six teams.
The top three teams will qualify for the World Cup with the fourth-placed team meeting an Asian qualifier bidding to take their place in the finals.
The United States, Mexico, Costa Rica and Honduras all reached the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, with Costa Rica enjoying their best ever tournament by reaching the quarter-finals.
The CONCACAF qualifying competition is the most complicated out of all of FIFA’s six confederations, with 35 countries reduced to three or four for the finals, depending on whether the fourth-placed finisher wins the intercontinental playoff, due to be held over two legs in November 2017.
Cameroon will have to negotiate a tricky, two-leg knockout tie against Somalia or Niger at the start of their World Cup qualifying campaign.
Somalia and Niger will meet in the first round and the winners play the Indomitable Lions over two legs in the second.
South Sudan, who joined FIFA in 2012, will face Mauritania in their first-ever World Cup qualifier, with the opening leg at home. The winners play Tunisia in the second round.
Nigeria will face Djibouti or Swaziland in the second round and African champions Ivory Coast must face Liberia or Guinea-Bissau.
Angola will meet South Africa in arguably the toughest of the second-round meetings.
The 26 lowest-ranked African teams take part in the first round and the winners join the remaining 27 African sides in the second stage, again played on a knockout basis with each tie over two legs played from Nov. 9-17.
This creates a potential pitfall for the established teams who run the risk of being eliminated because of a single shock result.
In the third round, the 20 teams are divided into five groups of four and the winners of each group qualify for the World Cup.
The winners of the Oceania World Cup qualifying group will have to play the fifth-placed South American side to reach the finals in Russia.
Uruguay have finished fifth in the past four South American World Cup qualifying competitions and taken part in an intercontinental play-off each time. They beat Australia in 2001, lost to them four years later, beat Costa Rica in 2009 and Jordan in 2013.
With Australia having shifted into the Asia qualifying competition in 2006, New Zealand, who qualified for the 1982 and 2010 World Cups, are firm favourites to win the Oceania group.
They will face Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Fiji in the second stage of the Oceania zone, with the top three teams in the group qualifying for the third round.
The third round consists of two groups of three and the winners of each meet in a two-leg zonal final
Thirty-two teams will take part in the 2018 World Cup. Hosts Russia qualify automatically and the others battle through a qualifying competition which involves 851 matches and takes two years and eight months to complete.
The competition is divided up by continent: 13 teams qualify from Europe; five from Africa; three or four from CONCACAF; four or five from South America; four or five from Asia; and none or one from Oceania.
The exact number per continent depends on the outcome of two intercontinental playoffs, each staged over two legs, at the end of the competition.
Each continent uses a different format.
FIFA has 209 member associations and all entered a team, although Indonesia and Zimbabwe were disqualified before playing due to off-the-field issues
The Asian and CONCACAF competitions have started and 22 teams have already been eliminated.
Brazil are the only team to have played at every World Cup.