The soccer World Cup draw is surely as exciting as watching men in suits pull balls out of a bag gets. But the results of their endeavor are likely to be crucial as to who thrives at World Cup 2022 and who takes a surprisingly early exit.
As anyone that has placed their Premiership bets during the 2021/22 season can attest, sometimes betting on the big guns like Manchester City and Liverpool pays dividends. But at the World Cup, the group draw proves pivotal in determining who might go deep into the tournament – be it in expected fashion or as a surprise outsider.
So how are the groups for World Cup 2022 shaping up?
Ones to avoid
The top two from each group qualifies for the knockout phase of the competition, but there is – historically at least – plenty of value in winning the group, to theoretically, secure an easier Round of 16 tie.
Germany and Spain have been matched in Group E, which makes winning the bracket that bit tougher, and there’s also Japan and the winner of the Costa Rica vs New Zealand play-off. The Japanese have qualified for the knockout phase in three of the last five World Cups, so the Germans and Spanish will have to be on their mettle.
There are groups in which the standout favorite might have to fight hard to achieve what is expected of them. Brazil have quality to spare, but Switzerland, Serbia and Cameroon will certainly keep them honest in Group G.
Group H is also interesting. Portugal are likely to be a force in what could be Cristiano Ronaldo’s last World Cup, but they could be pushed hard by three capable opponents – Uruguay, South Korea and Ghana.
The unlikely lads
Spotting some interesting outsiders is an easy task in this particular World Cup draw.
In Group A, the Netherlands are expected to top the pile, but keep an eye out for Senegal – the Africa Cup of Nations champions boast the likes of Sadio Mané, Edouard Mendy and Boulaye Dia and other quality operators. They will surely have too much firepower for Ecuador and hosts Qatar in that group.
The United States are interesting in Group B too. They might not be able to overcome England, but they could be more than a match for the UEFA qualifier and Iran – the US have an exciting young team made up of players plying their club trade in the English Premier League, German Bundesliga and Spanish La Liga.
You suspect this will be the last major tournament for the likes of Luka Modrić, Domagoj Vida and Ivan Perišić, so time is very much of the essence for World Cup 2018 finalists Croatia.
But the core of their team remains rock solid and with plenty of top flight experience, and in a group containing Belgium, Morocco and Canada they will be disappointed not to progress to the knockout phase of the competition.
And then…. who knows?