Luck of the draw for big guns
THERE were a lot of even groups to come out the World Cup draw in Moscow. But some nations fared better than others.
RUSSIA: Stood a huge chance of being embarrassed on home soil if things went the wrong way. But Saudi Arabia in the tournament opener should be a winnable assignment, while Egypt ensures that the Sbornaya will be favoured to advance to the Round of 16.
SPAIN: Was the dangerous floater that nobody wanted to draw, but things could have panned out disastrously for the 2010 champion. The “derby” against Portugal will be a must-watch, but Morocco and Iran hold no concerns.
ARGENTINA: Was a chance of missing out going into the final day of South American qualifying, now La Albiceleste has been dealt a draw that it should be able to negotiate with ease. Assuming the Argentines and France top their groups — a Round of 16 clash with Peru, Denmark or Australia is more than manageable.
ENGLAND: A lot of optimism about this England team despite the youngsters coming through the system. Gareth Southgate’s side should be able to negotiate a Group G also containing Belgium, Panama and Tunisia, while the Round of 16 crossover with Poland, Senegal, Colombia or Japan isn’t intimidating either.
JAPAN: Japan has fared well. The Samurai Blue are in Group H along with Poland, Senegal and Colombia and would have to be considered a chance of making the Round of 16 for just the third time.
IRAN AND MOROCCO: Spain and Portugal in your group. Good luck with that.
COSTA RICA: Plonked in
Group E along with Brazil, Switzerland and Serbia. A tough ask.
MEXICO: Taking on Germany in its opening game is a daunting assignment, while Sweden will be tough to toss and South Korea is no pushover either.
CROATIA: Comes down to a battle with the team it drew from Pot 3. But that’s Iceland — again. The same Iceland that it drew in qualification, which condemned Zlatko Dalic’s men to the playoffs.
GLASS HALF FULL
URUGUAY: Luis Suarez and co will be laughing all the way to the bank getting to play against Russia, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. But then the Round of 16 crossover is a tough one with Spain or Portugal likely lying in wait.
AUSTRALIA: Could have been better but France, Peru and Denmark in Group C is by no means the Group of Death we faced in Brazil.
FIGHTING CHANCE: Mile Jedinak celebrates scoring against Honduras.