FIFA World Cup 2018 Standings
The draw for the 2018 Russia FIFA World Cup was held on December 1, 2017. Teams now know who they will face and the venues where their matches will be held.
The qualification stage produced some major upsets, such as the failure of four-time champions Italy to make it through this year's event. The Netherlands, who finished 3rd in the previous edition of the tournament also did not qualify.
However, it was all joy as Panama and Iceland qualified for their ever world cup tournaments.
Group Stage Fixtures
The 2018 World Cup Finals draw, which was held in Kremlin placed the 32 qualified teams in eight groups of four teams each. The top two teams will qualify for the last 16 knockout stage. Germany are the defending champions and will be among the favourites to win this year’s edition.
If they succeed in their quest to retain the prestigious trophy, then they will match the record set by Brazil when they were inspired by the legendary Pele and won the 1958 and 1962 edition.
Host Russia can be grateful after they were given a relatively simple group and will open the tournament on the 14th June at 1600hrs with the lowest ranked team other than them, Saudi Arabia. An interesting game will be that between Portugal and Spain who are drawn together in Group B. The Group stage fixtures will be concluded by the final Group G games that kick off at 1900hrs on the 28th June.
The group consists of host Russia, Uruguay, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Russia placed at 61st and Saudi Arabia placed at 64th in the world are the lowest ranked teams in the tournament. They will open the tournament when they meet each other on June 14 at the Luzhniki Stadium. Uruguay and Egypt will fancy their chances of advancing given they have high profile names in their squads. Uruguay can rely on the resilience and creativity of Edison Cavani who plies his trade for PSG, and Luis Suarez who turns up for Barcelona. Egypt on the other hand can call on the creativity of Mo Salah who has turned out to be a revelation for Liverpool this season. Uruguay are the highest ranked team in this group at number 21. They have also won the won the World Cup on two occasions (1930 and 1950). Although Saudi Arabia are taking part in their fifth World Cup, they have only ever recorded one win, which was against Belgium in 1994 (1-0). Egypt will also be returning after an 18-year absence, their last and only appearance being in 1990.
The group consists of heavyweights Spain and Portugal, and are joined by minnows Morocco and Iran. After the draw was done, there was not really any true “Group of Death.” However, an analysis of the other groups puts this group as one of the toughest. Portugal are the current European Champions while Spain were World Cup winners in 2010. An interesting fact is that Portugal were one of their victims on the way to glory after inflicting a 1-0 win with the only goal having been scored by David Silva. Spain are making their 11th appearance at the World Cup Stage. They, however, had a dismal showing at the previous World Cup where they were knocked out in the group stages despite being the defending champions. Portugal have the lethal Cristiano Ronaldo to call upon, having guided his country to their first major trophy – EURO 2016. He was also the top scorer in the European qualifiers. Morocco will also be making their second appearance after beating Portugal 3-1 in the 1986 edition. Carlos Quieroz, who is the coach of Iran, will be facing his home country Portugal. Iran have only one win to their name, and that was the 2-1 victory over USA in 1998.
The group consists of France, one of the favourites to win the tournament, and they will be joined by Australia, Peru and Denmark. France have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to talent. They have superstars around the world such as Antoine Griezmann of Athletico Madrid, Paul Pogba and Martial who play for Manchester United, Hugo Lloris of Tottenham and Kylian Mbappe of PSG among many others. The key battle will be for second place, with Peru and Denmark favourites to clinch a knockout spot. France will be seething with rage after they let Portugal clinch the EURO 2016 edition on their soil. The Danes can call on Tottenham’s Christian Eriksen who was vital to their qualifying campaign, having had a hand in 56% of the goals they scored. Australia’s manager retired after they qualified and this might be a distraction as the World Cup is not too far away. They will be calling on their veteran Tim Cahill who has scored all the 5 goals his country has managed at the global showpiece. Peru will be returning to the global stage after a 36-year absence, their last being in 1982, the biggest gap among the countries that have participated in the tournament before.
Group D has familiar foes Argentina and Nigeria. They will be joined by Iceland, the smallest country to have ever qualified for a world cup and the potentially dangerous Croatia. This will be the fifth time Nigeria and Argentina will be squaring it out at the global showpiece. Argentina have emerged victorious on four of their previous meetings. Argentina have won the tournament twice and were in the finals in the last edition when they lost to Germany. They were in danger of missing this year’s tournament after an unconvincing qualification run. However, they had to rely on the brilliance of their talisman Lionel Messi, who scored a hat-trick in the decider against Ecuador. Argentina are the favourites to advance to the knockout stages. Nigeria and Croatia will likely be fighting for the other place but Iceland cannot be ruled out after their incredible run in EURO 2016 where they knocked out England. Croatia had to qualify through a play-off against Greece. They will however be looking to emulate the class of ’98 who were inspired by Davor Suker to finish 3rd in their first ever appearance.
Brazil, who are the record 5-time holders will be hoping to put back the humiliation they suffered on home soil after Germany thrashed them 7-1 in the semi-finals. They will be joined by Switzerland, Costa Rica and Serbia. If their qualifying campaign is anything to go by, Brazil are one of the favourites to win this year’s edition. Brazil only suffered one defeat in eighteen matches and had a goal difference of over 30. This should not be surprising given the form of PSG’s Neymar, Barcelona’s Coutinho and Manchester City’s duo of Fernandinho and Jesus. Brazil will also try to avoid Germany by finishing first in their group since Germany will likely finish top of their group. Although Switzerland, ranked 8th and Serbia are favourites to fight for the second spot in the knockout stages, Costa Rica cannot be underestimated. They were the surprise package in the last edition of the World Cup having beaten Uruguay, England and Italy to win the Group. They further went on to beat Greece and reach the quarterfinals before they were dismantled on penalties by the eventual third place winners, the Netherlands.
Germany are the defending champions and one of the favourites to win this year’s tournament. They will be joined by Mexico, Sweden and South Korea. Germany achieved 10 wins in 10 attempts to go through the qualifications unbeaten. They are also the highest ranked team in the tournament at 1st place. They will, however, be wary of slipping up as this might set them up in potentially risky last 16 meeting with Brazil, should they finish second and Brazil win their group. Sweden and Mexico will test Germany’s resolve as they are also strong sides. Sweden knocked out Italy, while Mexico had a relatively easy qualifying campaign. South Korea, although not as strong as when they reached the semi-final on home ground in the 2002 event, will be aiming to cause upsets. Germany will boost an array of talents with Thomas Muller being their current top scorer with 10 goals. In the last meeting between Sweden and Germany, the latter won 2-0 in the 2006 edition. Although only four teams have made more World Cup appearances than Mexico, they have been eliminated six consecutive times in each of their last 16 appearances, a fate they will want to avoid should they progress. South Korea, on the other hand, holds the record for most appearances among Asian countries.
Group G will see England battle it out with Belgium, Panama and Tunisia. June 18 will forever resonate in the history of Panama as they come up against Belgium, one of the highest ranked teams and favourites to lift the trophy, in their first ever World Cup Finals match. Tunisia made history in 1978 by becoming the first team from Africa to win a World Cup match and will prove to be worthy opponents for any team in the group. Barring upsets, Belgium and England are favourites to advance to the knockout stages. England will, however, be wary, having failed to get out of the group stages in the 2014 edition. They were also humiliated by a lowly Iceland in the last European Championships. However, their manager Gareth Southgate can rally his forces as he played Tunisia in 1998 and his team were victorious on that day. The current squad of Belgium is being hailed as the “Golden Generation.” with players such as Eden Hazard, Lukaku, De Bryune, Fellaini and Kompany among others aiming to justify the billing.
This group consists of a team each from Africa, Europe, South America and Asia. Poland, Colombia, Senegal and Japan will light up the event and should produce a contrast in playing styles. Poland ranked 7th in the World are the highest ranked team in the group. They will be depending on their forward talisman Robert Lewandowski for goals. Colombia will be led by James Rodriguez who was one the revelations in the last tournament. Senegal will look to Sadio Mane of Liverpool for inspiration as they aim to emulate the 2002 side led by Diouf, which defeated France and reached the quarterfinals. Overall, this group is open and each team will take their chances to advance. This will be Japan’s 6th appearance and they will be aiming to improve on their record of only 2 wins in their last 11 attempts at the World Cup.
The World Cup will be returning to Europe for the first time since 2006 when it was held in Germany. Although Russia has hosted many events such as the Winter Games and Olympics, this is the first time it is hosting the biggest football bonanza in the world.
While Russia does not allow tourists to enter the country without proper legal and travel documents, this year visitors will not require a Visa to enter the country. However, you may be asked for some documents such as proof of being a ticket holder. Online voters chose Wolf Zabivaka as the official Mascot of this year’s World Cup.
The 2014 edition was watched by up to 3.2 billion people, with this year’s audience expected to rise further. The World Cup has been held 20 times, with Brazil winning 5 titles, while Italy and Germany have 4 titles each. Argentina and Uruguay have won it 2 times each, while England, France and Spain have won it once each.
The Fisht Stadium in Sochi was also the host of the opening and closing ceremonies during the Winter Games in 2014. Although there are 32 teams taking part in this year’s tournament, the 2026 event will see the number of teams jump to 48. Oleg Salenko of Russia holds the record for scoring the most goals in a single game when he scored 5 against Cameroon in 1994 in the United States.